This post is part of a series contributed by DRA Trustee Barnaby Porter. Read the previous post here.
As the late fall afternoon wore on, it grew chilly and still, and the river settled into its evening mood. As often happens at that time of day, I looked up from what I was doing to see what the sky had to offer in the way of a sunset over the hills on the far shore. And what I saw was utter perfection – a clear, uncluttered horizon of continuous, unbroken silhouettes of dark pines and oaks on the ridges, backlit by the purest salmon red sky, with not a wisp of cloud anywhere. The sun was almost gone.
I quit my post in the woodshed doorway and went out to the point to watch, acting on my firm belief that I cannot fully experience a sunset from afar, or from indoors. I must get as close to it as possible. I must be there, to smell the smells, to feel the chill as it settles with the horizon’s shadow, to hear the stillness and to see, with all clarity, every ray of light and every reflection suspended on the evening tide.
I sat on some dry grass and leaned back against the trunk of a large pine whose roots grappled with the bank. The last of the sun’s highlights fell on the little island just to the north. Rich, deep russets and ambers glowed – autumn’s sweet sorrow – and the tall, dead snag stood weathering against the green of December’s pines, etched here and there by the white lines of birches.
The sky grew darker and the red afterglow richer. Every shape, the reflection of the trees and the sky on the water, even the occasional barking of the dog across the river, came to me with a crisp clarity so sharp that I was swallowed whole in the mood of this place, and the moment. I was part of it.
The river then turned glassy and black, the only movement its gently swirling eddies, as long lines of gulls began to labor downriver to wherever they spend the chilly nights. Their departure signaled the last moments of the day. Still I sat – something so magnificent as this sunset must take its gradual leave. Even to slowly stand up would be too abrupt. I just watched and listened.
Only the thinnest sliver of red now remained over the tree line. A few stars brightened. I thought of getting up. And then . . . sweswesweswesweswesweswesweswe . . . barely audible at first . . . sweswesweswesweswesweswe . . . growing to become a clean ribbon of sound, a lone whistler duck winged downriver, beating heart and muscle, chasing the fleeing light . . . sweswesweswesweswesweswe . . . it never faltered . . . just trailed onward and whispered into the night.
Artist and author Barnaby Porter has had a varied career in marine research, aquaculture, and woodworking, among others. Most recently he partnered with his wife Susan as co-owners of the Maine Coast Book Shop & Cafe in downtown Damariscotta. Barnaby currently serves on DRA’s Board of Trustees. For more about Barnaby, click here.
Photos courtesy of Barnaby Porter.