Birds and Boats, Light and Night

It’s a challenge this time of year — and in a resurgent pandemic, too! — to find time to walk safely and comfortably around working a full-time job. It’s been a long time since I felt so attuned to the light and the dark, the shifts in daily weather. In other years, I sit under the constant flourescent lights of an office until 5pm, and emerge into the street when it’s full dark.

Now I sit at a desk where, for most of the day, my only light streams in through the six-foot high windows beside me. Now, I watch the sunlight redden and fade until I have to turn on the desk lamp and corner light to protect my eyes.

So, as that lamp-lighting moment passed through the five o’clock hour and into the four this fall, I witnessed it from a new perspective, felt it in my body as the rising virus count coincides with the falling light, converging on a mood of quiet desperation.

So, sometimes, when my partner is home near the end of a slow day at work, I knock off 45 minutes early and we get in the car. I keep an eye on my work email from my phone till we get down to the shoreline, and we walk in Liberty State Park.

We’ve been at this park at sunset before, but this time it was more colorful than I remember, and with the cooler weather, far less crowded, too. Another advantage of coming at this time of year is that without the leaves on the trees, we actually saw more birds — mostly mourning doves in my photos, silhouetted against the sunset sky.

There were also the usual gulls, terns and cormorants as we walked along the water, and now on the cusp of winter, flocks of geese. Their little gifts make the park’s walkways an obstacle course, and the grassy areas moreso, but they’re also quite impressive when they flock in their hundreds overhead. Most were Canada geese, but mixed in were a smaller, squatter sort, which I would guess to be the barnacle geese becoming more and more common in Jersey winters. At the end of a Greenland summer, they’re supposed to go east to Scotland, Denmark and Germany for the winter, but increasingly they’re flocking together with Canada geese, and following them southwest to the Canadian Maritimes, New England and, increasingly, New Jersey.

And then we settled in along the quay to watch the sunset paint the sky around Lady Liberty, across the Verazzano Narrows, and the marshland behind us.

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