Labas rytas, Ulster County,
The predawn darkness of the Rondout this morning of December 29 makes one complacent through its sameness. But it’s repetition that makes the ritual. Sections of the vigil, divided in time, are as orderly as the stations of the cross, though fewer in number.
A candle for thieves and murderers, a candle for astronauts, a candle for sailors and stevedores, a candle for city workers and clerks, and then for us all. From night to daylight. Astronomical. Nautical. Civil.
Twenty-eight sunrises in a row, now, to wake before that burning ball. We wait in the darkness, a resurrection vigil — a muslin cloth dyed black is thrown over it all. The differences behind the fabric multiply as the sunrise nears. A dull red thrown off by a cooled fire glows at the horizon. Only the embers remain. Clouds stretched and pulled like dirty cotton ticking hang over Port Ewen and the hamlets to the south.
The temperature now is 29°, and the humidity reads 93 percent, though no rain is forecast until Saturday.
The sun also rises this morning at 7:24 a.m.
The waxing moon lifts like a fat, white-hot air balloon at 11:45 a.m. into a blue sky likely crowded with clouds, to pursue the sun.
Twelve hours later, give or take, the moon will set at 270° west, working its way toward the first full moon of the new year, the Wolf Moon, so named for the creatures beginning to starve as the coldest month comes on. There will be no December blue moon this year.
Peak moon is on the night of January 6.
From the banks of the river, watching the jumbled ice floes, juvenile ice will see the low tide at 12:46 p.m. before the water changes course and pours back in from the ocean, urged on by the moon’s pull, rising three feet and seven inches for the high tide at 6:35 p.m.
The southerly wind blows still, five knots carrying the warmer air north.
The barometer isn’t tipping its hand.
Nine hours and nine minutes after sunrise, when everything that shall happen — will happen, should, can, could, might, would, may, must happen — the day will be finished again, and sunset will relieve the pretext of it all.
It’s said the pursuit of money is slavery, but having it is a different thing entirely. Well, the night liberates us from the day like possession liberates pursuit. Which is some small comfort, well-heeled or barefoot, inspired or vapid.
According to the moody fur trapper Dionizas who fossicks small, furry animals on Mount Tremper, there remain just 71 days of winter temperatures ahead before the still-cold first thaw of spring.
In two more days it’ll be time to sing aulde lang syne, time to celebrate that one night every year available for secular redemption. The penultimate night before the end of yuletide. Forward, onward, and ever upward.
We now reach out to Bjorn Jorgensen on Belleayre for the mountain report. There has been no snowfall, and we should go easy on him. Well, Bjorn, how does this morning suit you?
Jorgensen: It suits me quite well.
Johannes: In spite of the lack of new snow?
Jorgensen: Well I’ve come to terms with it. I’ve thought about the addition of the extra snowmen and I admit, it was my greed for more snow that prepared the way. I can see that now, though maybe greed is not the right word.
Johannes: Sibling of greed, desire be her name.
Jorgensen: Or his.
Johannes: There’s no getting around it. You’ve unleashed them upon the mountain, and they won’t rest until every pinecone is shared in common.
Althea: And why should a cabal of capitalist pigs own every pine tree in the forest? Tell me that?
Johannes: Business enthusiasts, I think you mean. Welcome back, Althea.
Althea: Profit lovers. Sure. Call them what you prefer. But Bjorn’s soldiers, they’re good boys. Just a bit hair-triggered. And anyway, Bjorn never gave them arms, so I’d say their revolution’s off to a slow start.
Jorgensen: I have thought to myself where the first one came from. I certainly built him and put his hat on and stuck a pipe in his mouth. But he received no rabbit skull like the others, and no pine cone for a heart.
Althea: I won’t say it, but you can be sure it was the witch.
Minerva: And what if it was? The spirit was roaming and needed just a boost, a body to inhabit, a skull, not a rabbit’s. A skunk stood in for that. Killed by a dog which rushed on it unawares while it was just starting its day, near to its skunk den, near to a loose fen, at the bottom of the mountain, while it was looking away. The poor thing had suffered enough and it lay gasping in the dirt. Just walking away was not an option. What to do, what to do? I picked up a large rock.
Johannes: Where were you even hiding up here? There are no trees on the summit of this mountain.
Minerva: The shadow of a spruce, the core of an apple, an epileptic salamander, the skull of a skunk.
Johannes: All right, never mind.
Minerva: The poor beast, I buried him in a hole upright, what was left, facing to the east.
Johannes: Let’s move this along. Jorgensen, paint me a picture.
Jorgensen: The temperature at the summit presently is 0° Celsius, and all the snow I can see, it is frozen. We’ve been quite a while on the mountaintop, The sun has risen. The clouds have caught fire, burning orange and very bright. I have a very hot beverage, and I hope for the best. My ankle is not bothering me.
Althea: Bjorn. I have not drank enough to be unsure. But your snowmen. Look down the hill. They’ve got the tarp flapping. And they’re on the move. Maybe I should put an arrow in the anarchist?
Minerva: Ha, ha! Get along in your campaigns, roar these fierce soldiers — they come right into your arms — cut the throats of your sons and your companions. To arms, citizens, form your battalions. Let’s walk! Yes, let’s walk!
Johannes: Are they singing?
Althea: The boys are all right. But I’m still sinking one shaft.
Minerva: May impure blood water our furrows.
Jorgensen: Good shot. Look at that ice water spilled in the snow.