December Days

Just ahead of the solstice, winter has rushed in with bitter winds out of the west-northwest, putting skim ice on the ponds and a bloom on the cheeks of Islanders who go about their holiday business bundled against the cold. Fashion gives way to fleece, corduroy and thermals, and the curly coat of the neighbor’s Chesapeake Bay retriever suddenly looks extra thick and woolly, so much the better to go out duck hunting with his owner. Hardy commercial scallopers still dot the bays, steaming out in their rugged outboards early in the morning and returning before lunch, most with their limit. It’s been a good year for scalloping in most places, and the Island needed that, both for the small boost to the economy and large boost to the psyche — perhaps this means the Vineyard environment can hold on after all even though it remains under assault from too much development.

And then there is the added boost: dinner plates are full of fresh bay scallops, just in time for Christmas.

In the woodlands winterberries offer bright spots of color against bare gray branches; only the beech trees still bravely wear their coppery gold leaves, lone holdouts against oncoming winter. Soon there will be snow on the ground.

But for now there are December days left to savor, as the year slowly counts down to zero.