Days grow longer by increments now. Light, gaining strength, lingers on the rim of hills a bit longer each evening, before slipping back down to black. Some nights the twilight spreads all the way around the horizon, like a red hem on winter‘s star-sequined gown.
Took some photos on the way home, shivering, so cold I couldn’t feel my finger on the shutter.
It’s been really cold lately. On Saturday, when I went down to the shop, it was 4 below. I don’t remember it being that cold here. In other parts of the country, New England and the Midwest, it dipped into the -30’s. My folks marveled it was snowing at the beach in South Carolina.
There’s a mountain ridge, runs southwest to northeast. It’s where the bad weather comes from, a shoulder against winter. Wet and cold spill over the rim in slow motion, flowing down through the bare tree tops into hollows and coves, where houses are huddled inside by fires to keep warm.
All week the ridgeline has been hidden by low clouds, clear below; clouds that sometimes rain, sometimes mist, later sleet or snow, but never much.
The top of the ridge could be gone. Maybe it will just be changed somehow, and we won’t know what is different, it will just feel different. I saw a fox this morning, and an owl last night. Both had somewhere to go.
I have a handful of friends and family who I hear from around this time every year. It usually begins with emails, arriving in mid-October, with subject lines like “Has it started yet?” and “Almost Time!” They’re people who, for one reason or another, now live in places where they have no autumn to speak of, no explosion of fall color like we have in Virginia.
Last Fall I began playing with Final Cut Pro. I started out with a bunch of rough footage shot with a cell phone on a trip to NYC, along with some snaps from the same trip.
While playing around with the program, I was listening to some new music from Vector Trio, an improv piece from their Basement Tapes called Dream Dogs. The piece seemed to fit the footage, so I kept replaying it. Before long, I was subconsciously making edits and cuts to fit the music.
Eventually, the two just sort of merged into one thing.
South of Ocracoke, across the inlet, is Portsmouth Island and a ghost town of the same name. Though as a community it began and survived alongside Ocracoke for hundreds of years, Portsmouth’s more limited access proved it’s undoing. It was abandoned almost 40 years ago, and came under care and control of the National Park Service. There was never any electrical power on Portsmouth, though a few small generators operated when needed. Mostly the residents continued to live well into the 20th century much as they had in the 18th. Many of the houses are preserved intact, as are a church, a general store, a school, a post office, and the decommissioned life saving station once manned by the Coast Guard. Almost all are open to the public and cared for by volunteers alongside the Park Service, who only seems to provide assistance when funding is available.
The last ferry from Hatteras leaves at midnight. It’s then a forty minute ride through a deep and disturbing darkness to the northern tip of Ocracoke Island.
These are some of the most treacherous waters on the Atlantic Coast. In recent years, the Coast Guard has averaged 10 rescue missions a month in Oregon Inlet just north of here. Charts for the region don’t show channel markers; instead are displayed just warnings such as this:
“Hatteras Inlet is subject to continual change.
Entrance buoys are not charted because they are frequently shifted in position.”