Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Fuzzy Light of Winter



Darkness comes early in winter and with the setting sun there are colors to tease the mind. Living on the North Carolina coast means that light gets to play even more tricks because water is everywhere and our complex waters reflect the light in ways that are almost bewitching.

Sometimes just before dusk our sounds and rivers will spring alive with golden hues mixed with rich blues. The colors are such that you wonder if you eyes are seeing things correctly.  Just to make things more intriguing, the colors change rapidly as the sun starts slipping below the horizon.

It reminds me most of the Northern Lights that we used to see on late night trips back to our farm in Tay Creek, New Brunswick.  Northern Lights that close to the United States-Canada border are so ephemeral that you are almost positive that you never saw them.  The quick changes in colors in a coastal sunset and the lingering doubts that you saw what you saw are the same as with Northern Lights.

Winter on the coast is a fuzzy time in itself.  It is rarely winter but not quite spring and you know fall has already slipped away.  Our crocus patch started blooming in December and we picked our last tomatoes on January 17, but it is still too cold to plant spring lettuce or onions.  Just as the fading light cannot decide whether to be blue, gold or something in between, our seasons often go off course as winter becomes spring and spring falls back to winter.

This year even the birds were confused.  Our bird feeder went begging except for chickadees for nearly all of January.  Now as spring is just around the corner and winter's back is destined to be broken, the birds have decided to come back.  Now the marsh is alive with chirping and birds zooming from one tree to another.

Fortunately the indecision that wraps itself in our winter is never fatal but it does slow our response to the warm days of February.  The memory of the dampness and the chill of winter can cause a hesitation in tackling the adventures to search for the real signs of spring that tell us that the first fruit of the season is not far away.

Even spring can be unsure of itself as winter lingers around the edges of the not yet warmed waters of the marsh.  Last year at the end of March much like a few years earlier, a late but hard frost killed many of our tomato plants even as they were protected with pots and ready to ride the steep curve of warmth that sometimes tries to roast us along the coast well before the heat of mid-summer.

Then with the late frost just a memory,  all of sudden the water is ready for us and spring is here but even then before we know it our evening light is often blurred in the humidity that rarely leaves until fall.  The coastal seasons themselves are sometimes just as fuzzy as the last light of winter.

The good news is that the changes in light and weather make for some great photos and interesting years as we cope with life here on the sandy edges of North Carolina.  With weather that borders on being a riddle but is sometimes so nice that it should be bottled,  our coastal paradise is a great place to be a photographer especially if you can handle all the photos that demand to be taken.

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