Looking Back at a Winter Sunset Delight
I believe it is safe to say that most of us along the Maine coast are hoping that the last vestiges of winter are now behind us.
It has been nearly a week since a northeast gale delivered yet another round of snow on April Fools’ Day, though thankfully, evidence of this frozen prank has all but been forced into a liquid exile by spring’s growing dominance.
As I pondered the cautious thought of how this might have been the final act of an enduring winter, I recalled a moment earlier this year when the icy hold of Jack Frost displayed its first initial signs of fatigue.
It was during the second week of February 2011 when the appearance of seasonal battle lines became visually apparent. Spring was still six weeks away, but the sun was now subtly lingering longer in the sky by the day.
Though its warming powers would do little to banish the burdensome snowpack covering the landscape until the month of March, the sun’s first meaningful pushback against the presence of winter’s unrelenting cold was a scene of sparkling beauty to behold.
As with any battle, the hope of finding beauty amidst conflict is usually a pursuit in vain, but what I discovered on that mid-February day proved the exception to the rule.
For it was during a visit to Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde when I was presented with an opportunity to admire the initial stages of a tug-of-war between the sun’s radiant warmth and winter’s chilling touch. Winter was still in control at this point in the year and fully able to reclaim any thin water that didn’t make a successful run to the sea in time before sunset.
The results of such an uprising were nothing less than magnificent, especially when the canvas of snow and ice was doused with ample splashes of splendor by a lazy sunset.
All four seasons are capable of displaying the magnificence of sunset along a color-soaked horizon, but only during wintertime, when the crystallized beauty of snow blankets the terrain, does the sun’s dashing flare become playful. Such was the case on this February evening at Marshall Point.
Dancing unrestrained atop the surfaces of a bright snowpack and glistening trails of a delicate melt, the rays of a setting sun borrowed the beauty of the frozen mire to paint an array of vibrant colors upon the landscape that could not be surpassed by spring, summer and autumn.
As I gazed in awe upon this unfolding scene, I marveled at how the tussle between cold and warmth could indeed appear so beautiful.
There were winding little waterfalls free-flowing over the craggy ledge before being ordered to a halt by Arctic air that would not tolerate the notion of an escape from its icy grip, and haunting icicles reaching down into the dark depths of the rock clusters where the sun’s cheerful rays could not touch.
Along other areas of the ledge was more evidence of opposing forces having clashed just a day prior in the form of thick, unpolished ice that bore the unevenness of battle’s fury atop bedrock indifferent to the fight for supremacy in the air.
But my focus was about to change.
My eyes, which had been riveted to the snow-capped landscape and its treasure-trove of crystallized formations, were now being lured seaward. The sun was suddenly taking center stage on the western horizon with a descent that was bursting with the gorgeous promise.
In the meantime, stray clouds scurried across the open sky, seemingly embarrassed at the idea that their puffy presence might obscure the majesty of the moment in some small way.
And then it happened.
For a moment all too brief, the sun drenched the sky and terrain with spectacular tints of orange, pink and purple in true fresco-like fashion. The breathtaking masterpiece was royal elegance at its finest.
Where once blue sky and sea inhabited the unconquerable divide between distant islands and the firmament, the sunset had now bridged the vastness with swathes of cascading color as far as the eye could see.
All the while during sunset’s stunning performance, fishing boats were returning quietly from sea to Port Clyde – safe and sound after another day spent toiling on the brine. At water’s edge, a steady beam of light shone forth from Marshall Point Lighthouse to greet them like always.
Spring 2011 is now here to stay, which is a wonderful thought to embrace after a long, cold winter, but I think I’ll tuck away the memory of that sparkling mid-February evening as a gem of a moment that speaks to the splendor of coastal Maine and why we love this place.
Ok, let the flowers bloom!