Tuesday, January 28, 2014

'There is no such thing as bad weather'

Temperatures hover in the single digits, and last week yet another nor’easter blew in a foot of snow.

Ice clings to rooftops and roads, and ponds are frozen over, perfect for skating, if we can brave the cold.

“There is no such thing as bad weather; the good Lord simply sends us different kinds of good weather,” said nineteenth-century English writer and art critic John Ruskin.

Driving to the summer house, I try to forget the intense, bone-chilling cold and 30-mile-an-hour wind gusts. Instead I notice all the good things around me – sun on ice making trees and houses sparkle light diamonds, the smell of wood smoke in the air, tiny footprints in the snow, the quiet…

“One reason for the beauty of New England has always been the architecture, for the houses and churches were built to fit the land and the climate,” said Gladys Taber, who wrote from her seventeenth-century farmhouse on forty acres in rural Connecticut. “The steep pitch of roofs shed heavy snow, low eaves shed the melt easily, and the small-paned windows kept out the bitter cold, as did the low-hung doors. The houses were as staunch as the sailing ships that went out from Gloucester, New Bedford, Provincetown.”

We stop for breakfast at The Black Goose, which overlooks Nanaquaket Pond. A fishing boat is stuck in the middle of an Olympic-sized, saltwater ice rink. The fisherman has no need to row out to his vessel; he can walk.

At the summer house we drive into the backyard, expecting a world of white; but what we find is desert landscape. Snow lies beneath layers of sand whipped by heavy winds from the sand flats in the nature preserve and saltmarsh. I have lived here since childhood, and I cannot remember sand dunes in our yard in the middle of winter.

I stay in the truck to avoid being pelted by sand. The summer house, covered in snow, is an igloo, hibernating and waiting patiently for spring.

The farmland behind our property is filled with thousands of geese, seeking sanctuary from the unforgiving winds and sand. They hover together in the fields, a giant shorebird reunion.

We drive along the beach, following the rime that has encrusted the shoreline. The waves are angry, battling ice floes that try to take shape in vain, doomed to lie broken on the rocky shore.

Then the sun breaks through the dark gray clouds and fills the truck cabin with light and warmth.

Inspired, I reach into my bag with cold fingers, pull out a pad and begin to write…

It’s all good.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Reflections on a beach in winter


Time marches on.

Another year is a gift, a second chance. We start over and begin anew.

“Still round the corner there may wait, a new road, or a secret gate,” said J.R.R. Tolkien.

I start the day at the beach, which is just as lovely as in midsummer, only much colder.

It is deserted except for a few seagulls circling overhead, turning their wings against the wind and casting shadows on the shore.

Sunlight streams into the truck cabin keeping me toasty warm as I gaze in awe at the panorama before me.

In the morning sun, the snow coruscates, as bright light reflects on ocean waves.

Dusted with snow, granite boulders by the water’s edge seem like the stuff of snowmen, huge snowballs waiting to be placed atop each other.

William Blake said, “In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.”

As I adjust to the tranquility around me, I feel the strain of the past week lessen its hold.

In Genesis, God called his creation the sea and filled it with all kinds of swimming creatures with which the water teems, and God saw how good it was.

A walk along the beach in January is very good indeed and a constant reminder of change. Every year, every day, every second – the sea is changing. Countless populations of marine life shift. No stone is left unturned. It is a world in flux.

Today the beach is a world of white, wearing its winter wardrobe of snow and ice, a blank slate lying fallow.

I walk slowly leaving behind footprints in the snow-encrusted sand.

This quiet, open space in this in-between time or interstice reminds me of a musical composition. As a lifelong musician, I think of the Grand Pause.

The concert band rises to a crescendo, and then there is a sudden silence. The musicians have come to a G.P. or Grand Pause, which is a notation over a rest indicating that they are expected to extend the silence until the conductor signals the beginning of the next note. The function of this pause is to create a period of silence at the direction of the director.

January is a grand pause, time to reflect at the Creator’s direction.

“You can’t get too much winter in the winter,” said Robert Frost, who lived deep in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

The cold, biting wind ushers me along. A world of possibilities lies ahead.