After three solid days of rain, you wonder whether the blue skies will ever come again. And when they do, as they did with this morning’s sunrise shown above, it is a beautiful thing to see.
The sun rises early here in Stonington, on the far eastern edge of the Eastern time zone, which means there is a good/bad tradeoff on sunny versus rainy days. When the skies are clear, the first peek of sun over the horizon blasts through the heavy curtains of our east-facing bedroom and wakes me without fail. That means I get up earlier and earlier until we pass the longest day of the year. When it’s rainy and gloomy, in contrast, I can sleep later, and I don’t need to water the plants, either.
We had an interesting sunrise this morning. The sky was cloud-covered, but the clouds were thin enough to allow a fair amount of sunlight to illuminate the harbor. The diffuse sunlight left the water looking like hammered metal and cast all of the boats resting at anchor into shadow, thereby creating a landscape that, with a battleship gray dock in the foreground, covered pretty much every shade of gray in the gray rainbow–from pewter to slate, lead, flint, charcoal, dove, and every other shade of gray you can imagine.
It was a beautiful scene as I stood there at the edge of the expansive dock in the early morning stillness and quietly took in all of the awesome, overwhelming grayness. I like this picture of the scene very much, but even so it doesn’t fully capture the live moment.
I’ve always been an early riser. Grandma Neal liked to say that I got up at “the crack of dawn.” This morning’s stunning sunrise reminded me of that favorite phrase, because it looked like a crack in the sky, with light beaming in through the break and spreading over the sleepy town and boats at anchor in the harbor.
Sunrises like this are best enjoyed with a cup of hot coffee, and make getting up at the crack of dawn worth every lost minute of sleep.
Ocean Drive is a short stretch of road that splits off from Allen Street and then hugs the shoreline as it runs down to Greenhead Lobster. At that fork in the road there is a manhole cover — specifically, manhole cover #123, which we know because all Stonington manhole covers bear green, neatly spray-painted identification numbers. When the lobstermen who moor their boats in the western edge of the Stonington harbor drive to Greenhead to park their pickup trucks and take their skiffs out to their big boats in the morning, they hit old #123 as they veer onto Ocean Drive and make a distinctive “clink CLUNK” sound as the manhole cover rattles under the weight of the passing trucks. Most mornings, that clink CLUNK is the first sound I hear.
Ocean Drive is a bit of a misnomer, because the Atlantic Ocean is still several miles away, shielded from the harbor by many islands. But it’s not hard to imagine that, as the lobstermen turn left at the Ocean Drive split, give #123 a good rattle, smell the salt air, and catch the sunrise view shown above in the morning, it helps them get mentally ready for another hard day of lobstering.
My grandmother had a poetic saying for every occasion. UJ and I spent a lot of time with her during our childhood, and heard every one of her sayings multiple times. They’ve become part of my permanent mental landscape and simply pop into my head, unbidden, from time to time.
Like when I saw this morning’s sunrise, shown above, with its striking red sky. It immediately made me think of one of Grandma’s weather-related favorites:
Red sky at night, sailors’ delight,
Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.
To my knowledge Grandma never lived in a coastal community. She didn’t have any close friends or relatives who were mariners, and I don’t remember her telling us any stories about receiving instruction from a grizzled sailor about his rules of thumb on the weather. She may have been on a boat once in a while on her travels, but being on the open water wasn’t a regular part of her life in land-locked Akron, Ohio.
Nevertheless, as a kid I believed that Grandma knew what she was talking about. But these days I’m not so sure. This morning the lobster fleet chugged out of port as it always does, without batting an eye about that red sunrise. And my weather app indicates its going to be sunny today, with a high in the mid-70s. Could Grandma have been wrong?
Or maybe the warning to sailors was about sunburns.
There are a number of reasons why you would wake up at 5 a.m. on a Wednesday morning in Stonington:
(1) It was warmer than normal last night, so you slept with the windows wide open to get some of that cool seaside air;
(2) At 5 a.m., the pick-up trucks carrying the sternmen are racing to the piers, and some of the early moving captains have their lobster boats revved up and moving out to the open water;
(3) With the sun peeking over the eastern horizon, the birds decide it’s a good time to call out to each other to make sure that all of the other birds in the neighborhood made it through the night okay; and
(4) When you get up to shut the windows and look outside, you see a sunrise that looks like a painting and you decide the better course would be to enjoy it for a while.
Captiva Island is long and narrow, running (more or less) north to south. At our location on the island it’s about a half mile wide, and the Sunset Captiva community where we are staying owns the property from the east coast to the west coast. That means it’s only a few steps in one direction to enjoy the sunset one evening, then a few steps in the opposite direction to catch the sunrise the next morning — which is what I did today.
There are a lot fewer people up to catch the sunrise, so it’s a peaceful, quiet time. As I stood dockside watching the sunrise I noticed some movement in the water and was happy to see three manatee coming to the surface to enjoy the sunrise, too. The manatee, some gulls, and some pelicans were good company as I watched the beginning of another day.
We’re enjoying a weekend sojourn in Naples, Florida, staying with friends who have a lovely condo on a golf course, overlooking a tranquil pond. I haven’t played golf in years, since I had foot surgery, but I still appreciate the beauty of a golf course sunrise, the chirping of the birds that golf courses inevitably attract, the puttering of the groundskeeper’s cart in the distance, and the cool air in the minutes before the sun bursts over the horizon.
Now, if only spring would finally make it to Columbus . . . .
Mom and Dad bought a condo on Hutchinson Island in Stuart, Florida in the late ’80s. It became a special place for them. When Dad retired a few months after they bought the condo, they began to spend more and more time in this enclave of seagrass, windswept beaches, and crashing surf. I think Dad would gladly have moved down here full-time, but Mom wanted to keep a place in Columbus to spend time with kids and grandkids. So they compromised, as successful married couples do, and split the years equally between their condo at Suntide and a condo in Columbus.
They spent many happy years here, and made many friends. The kids and grandkids enjoyed the condo, too. It was a great place to take little children, with a sunny pool and a beach and sandcastle building and boogie board riding and shell-gathering only a few steps away. Kish, Richard, Russell and I came down here regularly, and so did my siblings and their kids. We all have strong memories of this place.
Dad died in 1997. He wanted his remains to stay here, and we honored that request. The kids got older, the visits to the condo became less frequent, and Mom wanted to spend more time in Columbus with her kids and Columbus friends. Eventually we sold the condo at Suntide, but Mom always said that after her death she wanted her remains to be brought here to be with Dad, always and forever. We promised we would do so. And this weekend all of the kids and grandkids are here to honor that promise and think once more of Mom and Dad and their little piece of paradise.
Mom and Dad and the condo are gone, but the sand and surf and sun — and memories — remain. I got up early this morning to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic, and it was as beautiful as I remembered. Mom would have liked it.
We just returned from our annual father-son outing at the Quinnebog Fishing Club on Old Hen Island in Lake Erie. This morning’s sunrise was lovely, with a lone seagull circling far above the water. It was a beautiful end to a fun weekend.