Before breakfast, I stepped out into the pre-dawn darkness to attend to my bird-feeding chores. I was surprised to look up and see several stars overhead. Surprised because lately it has been cloudy every morning…and in fact, cloudy most days throughout, from dawn until dusk. I can't recall when I last noticed stars—but the fact was sufficiently thrilling that I paused for a moment to enjoy their bright glimmer through the tangle of interlaced treetops.
Not only were the heavens clear and spattered with stars, but a weary waning moon, like a sliver of clipped fingernail, hung low in the southern sky. Venus trailed close behind, the dazzling Morning Star now at its yearly brightest.
We had clear skies yesterday evening, too—though only for about fifteen minutes right at dusk. I was working at my desk when a movement on the river caught my eye. I looked up and saw a great blue heron flapping along, about five feet above the water's surface. The big bird made a banked turn, gained a dozen feet of altitude, reversed directions again, still climbing, and landed on a sycamore limb high above the stream.
Just as the heron was settling onto its night roost fifty feet up, a bit of sun broke through the cloud cover to the west. Gold-tinged light began pouring into the island's woods. I thought I might manage a nice shot of the high-perched heron and grabbed my camera. From the front deck, the warm profusion of light was reflected by the river below, while the snow lining both banks appeared a pale violet. I made a shot of that, then aimed downstream and made a photo of the heron. However, quick as I was, at that point the western clouds were redrawing their curtain, the magic light fading.
This morning's clear skies also lingered only briefly. Long before the burgeoning dawn turned into full daylight, clouds had again pulled overhead like the drawing up of a gray blanket. Now the light is flat and neither river nor snow carries a sparkle. But that's okay. A couple of doses of clear light, however brief, were sufficient. It can't remain cloudy forever.