Sunset over the harbor

New Bedford rises up from the harbor to the west. It’s not much of a hill, but it’s just high enough that the sun disappears a quarter of an hour before it would if there were no hill. I walked down to the end of State Pier at about seven thirty, and the sun was no longer visible. One short month from now, the sun will have disappeared a whole hour earlier than. The days shorten so rapidly at this time of year.

Some big dark cumulus clouds had built up late this afternoon, and as I stood at the end of State Pier, they towered over the harbor to the east and south. But the light of the setting sun turned them pink and dark purple, softening them and rendering them less ominous. Straight overhead, a wispy line of cirrus clouds marked the end of cloudiness, with blue sky to the north and west.

It was that soft but vivid slanting light that characterizes New England seascapes. I felt as if I could see every little detail of the boats that were in Kelley’s shipyard, even though they were all the way across the harbor. There was some movement on the harbor: a slow-moving fishing boat, a small water taxi with its turquoise canopy, and way off by the Fairhaven side of the hurricane barrier flashing oars caught the last of the sunlight and showed the presence of one of the whaleboat teams practicing their rowing.

The clouds were amazing, but really too amazing to look at for very long. All the poignancy of late summer rose up in me, and I turned and walked home to cook some dinner. The bulk of the Whaling Museum loomed up as I got closer to home, its sperm whale weather vane now pointing its snout towards the north-northwest, or even north-by-west: the cold front had gone through.