Relay: Between Seasons

How the curtain has drawn around our days, leaving us snatching at the bright hours

It happens so fast — the dark I mean. One day it’s a bright afternoon and you’re swimming. Then suddenly how silly it seems, the sandy towel still in the car. 

How the curtain has drawn around our days, leaving us snatching at the bright hours, the light already fading at midday. The bare-bones grip of early dark and cold tightening each day until solstice. 

And then — well it’s a long time until time again expands. Always I try to remember the stretching is slow, daily, and accumulates. But there’s a long fallow time, the underground seep. 

The peace of a quiet day in a snow globe of soft and continuous motion and the chittering of birds. And yet — the yearning for light. 

A year ago, half or more of us sat transfixed at the unfolding election results and woke up drenched in dread. We’ve watched a malignancy sow seed since then, a maw open between the dark and the light, between rationality and dogma, a murk of fear color the country in charcoal.

Two years ago I took a small girl’s hand in mine as she waded through chilly water to shore, her baby brother in my arms. The Aegean sucked in her discarded life vest, a knockoff filled with sodden newsprint sold to her parents by smugglers, and deposited it like a bright anemone on the sea floor. Another broken promise.

I repeated, over and over, in bad Arabic to families in the throes, greetings and “Welcome to Greece.” We wrapped space blankets around shoulders, heads, and feet, like flower-surrounds of silver and gold, and sent traumatized people off for tea and dry clothes.

This winter, there are 4,000 refugees still in sagging tents in the mud of one camp, the barbed wire holding them in, immigration policies holding them back. This week one 10-year-old Afghan boy at the center of another overcrowded boat never got up, crushed. 

How at night, over cups of ouzo and wine, the fire in the taverna stove glowing, we loved each other, refilling each other’s ragged-edged hearts with fellowship, readying ourselves to give more, remain compassionate the next day. 

Late November and the last leaves, though still colors, have dulled; the sky is gray, and it’s absolutely still, neither warm nor chill. It’s a day for Led Zeppelin, maybe “Misty Mountain Hop,” “Black Dog,” or “Kashmir.” Something haunting and biting, to scrape the edges of this day. To draw a sharp line to play chicken with. 

It’s so fast, and I go willingly across the veil, leaving practical concerns behind; let them dwell in the twilight for a time. Into the morning gray, into the suspension of this day between seasons, just before my birthday.

Born late in the year, I get confounded sometimes by the math — or maybe it’s deeper than that. All year I’ve been thinking I was 58. And now, after asking the internet to straighten me out, I’ve discovered I’m not yet there. I have a year of grace, the time till 60 expanding. 

Grace — may we all have a little bit. Maybe it’s just one deep breath, some wood smoke in the air. Maybe it’s big or maybe it’s small. Once, for a while, there were just two things I clung to: the sight of a ribbon of ocean blue at the crest of a hill along East Hampton woods, and a hot shower at the end of the day. For the homeless, it’s a warm, safe, and quiet sleep. Or maybe, it’s just the touch of a gentle hand. Reaching out, receiving. 

Joanne Pilgrim is an associate editor at The Star.