Understanding the calendar was showing late October and the wind a bit more chilly than it has been, my family and I set out for a trek along the Rockland Breakwater yesterday evening. Our intent was to enjoy a favorite family pastime and what’s left of the season’s fleeting outdoor opportunities when one seeks to linger by the sea in relative comfort.
When we arrived at the breakwater, as expected, the beauty of Penobscot Bay was still a vivid, panoramic display, yet something felt distinctively different about the moment as we began walking along the stone wall.
A prelude to the changing seasons seemed to be all around us – a scene that grasped the senses with a touch of wistfulness. Departed from the harbor and bay were the sights of schooners under robust sail and solitary fishermen along the breakwater casting a line, with the hopes of an anticipated catch attached to the other end.
Gone too were the sounds of the sea. Powerful engines humming, fun-loving voices bouncing off the water and the rush of passing wakes careening against the breakwater were confined to an ebb tide past. Thankfully, the sweet smell of the sea still filled the air, which was accented by the aroma of rockweed drying along the beach that was laid bare by low tide.
As I turned to peer northward over the bay, the late afternoon sun still covered Camden Hills with radiance, but the appearance of the mountains no longer leaped off the landscape with a vibrant majesty. On this evening, the rolling hills rather exuded subdued hues of browns, with just enough sprinkles of orange splashed about to prevent a burnt, melancholy etching in one’s mind of the passing seasons.
Even the texture of the breakwater “felt” strangely cold. Wasn’t it just a couple of weeks ago when the stone cap of the wall greeted walkers like my family and I with a promise of relaxing satisfaction? Its dry stonework, which once held heat absorbed from basking in the daylong warmth of the sun, could no longer conjure up such a welcoming fervor.
With a northwest wind gusting to 25-knots and a wind chill of 41 degrees, I couldn’t help but feel the effects of seasonal change racing faster than ever across the water – much faster than I wished anyway.
A glance back over Rockland Harbor revealed the presence of an old friend. All was not lost to the winds of change. The sun was still holding court in the western sky, and like it had all summer long, its evening descent promised delightful results of color aglow.
For a moment, the chilling wind and nearly desolate seascape could not douse the embers of summer’s one-time warmth – even if this perception was confined to the realm of my personal emotions.
My conflicting emotions were further elevated by a rare drama unfolding on the water at the moment around sunset. A battle of two lights was about to square off over Penobscot Bay, and our front row seat on the breakwater was just the place to be.
The setting sun and its emblazoned displays at dusk usually go unchallenged for our attention, but while the few hardy souls walking briskly along the breakwater stopped for a moment to affix their gaze westerly and admire bursting swathes of oranges and yellows, another battle for our attention was suddenly rising out of the east over the islands of North Haven and Vinalhaven.
Just four minutes before the sun was to set below the horizon at 5:40 pm, October’s full moon, ascending quietly in the eastern sky, was not to be out done. The full moon, whose splendor was most profound while shining on the low, dim-lit horizon just above the islands, “stole the show” moments before the sun’s final curtain call. In doing so, the moon took full advantage of reflecting the pastel pinks and oranges that the sun usually reserves for passing clouds or stretches of clear sky.
This incredible scene seemed to capture the essence of my conflicting emotions. Should I watch the beautiful sunset to the west or admire the rising full moon to the east? In this instance, the moon “won the day,” for such play of the moonlight over Penobscot Bay is a sight to behold from the vantage point of the sea.
With this decision, had I finally turned my back on summer – all be it figuratively, to enjoy what the changing seasons continue to bring? Maybe so, for the realization that time marches on and that each season – and day for that matter, is to be enjoyed to the fullest for what it is, helps keep our daily gaze upon life buoyed in a sea of constant change.
Daylight was now nearly chased entirely from the evening sky by a cloak of darkness, so my family and I walked back to our car. Along the way, I couldn’t help but recall a couple of stanzas from Wilbert Snow’s poem, “Changing Seasons,” which seemed appropriate on an evening like this…
“The wind is full of mystery tonight;
In it the summer warmth and autumn chill
Commingle like the waters in a bight
To form a rip-tide that is never still.
Colliding seasons purify the air
Like clouds that forge the thunderbolt; the moon
Climbs fearfully her hazy spiral stair,
And clearer grows the laughing of the loon.”