It is January 5 and I am taking out the trash just as the sun rises. Above me is a dark cloud, scooting in from the southwest and overspreading Pinehaven. I know the sun will barely rise before it is hidden again but I am so enthralled by the cloud deck that I don't care. This is a scene that makes me stop in my tracks.
And because I was present for the beginning of the day, I am present for its end:
The sky was lit throughout the day by jet contrails, hundreds of them, all at the same time. I do not remember a moment when the sky wasn't literally crossed in all directions by them ... thin streaks, just made, and wide bands, beginning to blow apart in high altitude winds. The sunset, I am sure, will light them with fire. And I am not wrong.
Will I ever tire of that tree that stands besides Sam's driveway, that lovely form that shades me on my summer circuits, that seems to stand through all storms with only a small branch given up now and again? The sky is literally fire - down low - and ice - up high ... and it glows with such an ember that I think the world is somewhere aflame.
And yet as quickly as the sun sets and that flame extinguishes, the moon rises cold and white in the east. Pinehaven's bricks chill in the night air as the moon begins to cast shadows of tree branches. The catalpa seems to hold it's hands of gnarled fingers high. I would be frightened of it in the dark if I did not love it so.
And another day passes:
This is a summery winter, warm beyond comprehension, and so I can enjoy the evening sky with no more than a light coat. I walk behind the garden, set my flashlight on the burn barrel - it will serve as my astronomical desk - and marvel at the clear sky. To my unaided eye it is almost pure black but for Venus's beacon in the southwest. Yet with the camera and a little time, I can cause the horizon to brighten again, as though the sun had reversed his course. The pines, still holding their needles, and the deciduous trees, devoid of leaves, provide a frame for this beautiful shot. Standing there, it is not one I can see. Only the camera can absorb enough light to show it to me.
Turning around, placing Venus to my right rear, the moon rises high, clear of the catalpas only a day later and pushing closer to full (though three days away as I shot this scene on January 6). Look there at 8 o'clock, that bright speck on the moon. Is it the edge of a crater reflecting the sun back to me? The same bright spot is on other shots, even though the moon is not at the same place in the frame (thus it is not a defect in the CCD nor some other digital artifact). It is real. It is brighter than its surroundings. It is on the moon.
Now to the back yard where I can see Pinehaven as a whole, sitting lone beneath the moonlight. A hint: turn off your lights, look at your monitor in a dark room, click on the photo and enlarge it if you want, and enjoy the geometrical forms in the night. Let you eyes adjust - as I did when I stood there - and allow the scene to come up.
This is unusual to be able to enjoy the sky so well in January. But we are so far without winter and I may stay outside as long as I like. A winter's sky is matched by no other season.