The weekend snow was pretty but never really accumulated, not in Sagg, anyway. Microclimates are one thing when you’re talking about the likelihood of a frost, and quite another when you’re caught driving in what seems to be a spotty blizzard. When I left home in a two-wheel-drive vehicle, it had turned to rain, but as I made for Bridgehampton, I noticed even here there was more snow on the shoulder. As I bore northward and headed into the moraine, it was snow falling hard, not rain at all. Magnificent! The week was dominated by cold weather, giving rise to the remark, “And it’s not even winter yet!” Winter, of course, is very nearby—always is. This time of year, without fail, my brother and I are inclined to continue a tradition of putting lights on the cemetery tree. This job, like any other, is never the same twice. We’re on our second tree now. We’ve used any order of cherry pickers and tractors and ladders to do the job. It’s a responsibility left to us by Bud Topping. Then, as now, it takes the better part of two days to get the tree from its mid-Sagaponack oblivion into symmetrical sudden brightness.
Though my time in the bucket, high above the bustle, is spent mainly grappling lights through the needles, I can occasionally appreciate the vantage point, if not the anonymity, of the entire enterprise. Some people slow down and look, fewer wave hello; no one brings us coffee, and it must be one of the coldest days so far.
Bustle? In Sagaponack? In December? Indeed, it never stops, the noisy trickle of dump trucks and the final harvest they connote. I remember one bitterly cold day when the only passerby was my father, in the combine, and the subsequent trucks brimming with corn that came in from the field. Then, everyone else who went past would have known us, and slowed, stopped, helped out (coffee).
I have a bias from which I judge the Christmas tree, but no matter the number of times I see it I do not grow tired of it. Part of the tree’s allure is its ability to surprise; one comes around the bend and out of absolute small-town darkness is a spectacular, if unexpected, tree.
The winter wing of the Magnolia Gawkers is the Light Brigade, and we see them cruising, by the carload, at night. They come past our house and then, about a hundred feet from the tree, they cut their lights and slow way down, sometimes stopping. The flood of rainbow lights passes across their happy faces. High beams on, they roar away.