Our Environment: “The New England Sunset” By Scott Turner
Sunday, January 20, 2019
Last weekend, we got quite the show in the western sky, on the drive north and west, returning Rachel 265 miles for her final semester at the University of Vermont.
The sunset—or more precisely the time it took for the sky to go truly dark—lasted a little over two hours.
This meant we enjoyed 20+ additional minutes of light, as a complete setting of the sun may last up to one hour and 40 minutes in New England.
I’m thinking that we experienced the extra-long twilight because we were angling toward the light at 60-70 mph, the sky was clear and the roadway—often a cut through cliffs—provided a fine line of sight.
Dusk began after the sun dipped behind the hills of the northern border of the Monadnock region right after we entered I-89 south of Concord, N.H., leaving the Merrimack Valley behind.
The first color in the sky was that of a fresh lemon. This hue was both pale and exceptionally bright. Such late-in-the-day dazzle enhanced the stark look of the ice-shrouded rock outcrops and tall white pines, their branches reminding us of long arms reaching toward the heavens.
About halfway along this stretch of I-89, white pines gave way to snow-dusted spruces. Compared to the pines, the spruces were narrower and stalk topped. In the growing darkness, they looked like rows of closed umbrellas, resting on their handles and dredged in powdered sugar.
We realized it was our first look at sizeable snow cover this winter. The spectacle was impressive, as it is every year, redefining the landscape and revealing its features.
Despite the scenic sparkle, however, we had no interest in leaving the car. Baby, it was cold outside. When we’d left Providence the outdoor air was 33 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, as we motored past Lake Sunapee, the temperature outside was 8 degrees Fahrenheit.
Streaks of sea-green color began to pervade the western sky, as we entered the Connecticut River Valley, nearing the Vermont border. Speedily, the sky transformed into a blue-green color that for a while looked almost turquoise.
In Vermont, 1-89 continued in a northwest direction. At that moment, in the Green Mountain State, the color of the sky was indeed green, primarily the shade called “mint.”
By the time we reached Barre, VT, the sky was fully dark. Now we could see stars—pinpricks of light radiating from a blanket of midnight blue. Outside the temperature was 2 degrees Fahrenheit.
When we arrived at Rachel’s Burlington apartment, we re-discovered why we really didn’t miss frigid weather. The parking lot was swathed in thick ice—treacherous to tread.
We—Karen, Woody the Shih Tzu and myself—stayed the night. The next morning, the sun rose over the Green Mountains, illuminating the Adirondacks to the west of a Lake Champlain from which steam rose in the 4-below-zero air.
Five hours later, we arrived back in Providence. The city was snow free and the air temperature was 30 degrees. It all looked and felt fine, except that Rachel was 265 miles away.
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