Tuesday 9 February 2021

North East Blues


I often wonder what am I doing in the frozen North East around this time of year? Now that I don’t have the responsibilities of a bandleader I could be down in Miami, New Orleans, or a dozen other warm locales, and not shivering my you-know-what up here.


I can hear Yer Man up in Pearl River slyly suggesting, “You could go back to Cuba – that hot enough for you?”


Nah, they don’t allow Americans in at the moment, for fear we’d infect them.


Growing up in Ireland weather was a bit more humdrum - something to be endured, though endlessly commented on.


When I got here I exulted in the snows of January and the dog days of August. Humidity never cost me a thought. In the East Village few people had air conditioning; if it got too hot you could always chill out in a bar or an after hours.


But lately, come bleak winter, I’ve been getting the urge to head south. Part of that is from the mild insomnia I’m cursed with. 


In the spring to autumn months I’ve no problem getting up in the middle of the night and knocking out some pages of whatever play or novel I’m wrestling with.


But in the dead of winter that’s not such an easy proposition.


To counter my nocturnal mind spinning, I take a three-mile walk every day. Yesterday it was freezing as I set off into a stunning dawn. Is it my imagination or have this winter’s dawns been particularly vivid?


I could almost hear celestial music as the sun shyly peaked its head above the Long Island Sound.


Even the gulls stopped their skimming and gliding to note this new presence. But when “that lucky old sun” majestically burst forth from its crimson background, the gulls too soared in appreciation, and for minutes on end their snow white feathers melded into a delicate shade of pink.  


I strolled on keeping an eye on Charles Island. How different it is from the wind-blasted Saltee Islands off south County Wexford.


Charles is fully wooded and serves as an Egret preserve in the summer. Oddly enough, I prefer its winter barrenness, for only then can I can feel the presence of the Native Americans who once lived out there.


Likewise I can sense the English Puritans who settled nearby and within a couple of generations eliminated the first Americans from their Eden.


In summer I barely give them a thought but in winter there’s no doubting what a tough, uncompromising people these “pilgrims” were.


Nestled in my down coat I marveled at how they survived their first winters on this frozen coast.


Though their history is written in blood and intolerance one has to admire their fortitude - if not their humanity.


As I ambled on I missed the migratory snow-white egrets and most of all the swooping ospreys. But lo and behold, I was suddenly blessed with a sighting of the lone Blue Heron who had chosen not to depart for southern climes in October.


Was he injured back then or just didn’t feel up to such a long journey? I’ll never know but I mostly see him now at dusk as he swoops across the bay onto a stretch of bog that had once been the town dump.


Yesterday he glided in so low I could almost feel the beat of his wings as he came to a graceful landing, and with a toss of his head glared back at me.


Had I disturbed some mouse he was hunting, a soft-shell crab perhaps, or did he consider this whole bog to be his province, and what the hell was I doing up at that hour of the morning anyway.


We share a kinship, I suppose. Neither of us went south. Each of us stayed in the frozen north for our own reasons.  And so, I glared back at him – it’s my bog as much as yours, buster! 


He held my eye for a moment before returning to his real business – what was on the menu for a boggy breakfast?


After our stand off I strode on, but couldn’t help but wonder where we’d both be this time next year.