The view from Simpson’s Point in Brunswick. Contributed

Two days after the solstice had marked the end of our decent into darkness, I went to Brunswick’s Simpson’s Point for some time on foot, and to watch — if my timing was right — the sunset. I parked on the narrow road’s empty edge and set out on a favored loop into upper Pennelville. The afternoon was cool —- and, rare for winter — windless. So, no hunched posture and simply bearing forward through a cold wind; the day felt expansive, even in its short stature.

And, I reminded myself, from having consulted with one of the myriad weather-sites I have bookmarked, today we’re promised an added 12 seconds of daylight. “Short winter,” I said to two walkers I passed. Maine weather humor; they looked a little perplexed, and we all hurried on.

But already I felt the shift, the way some Sisyphus-of-the-Sun has leaned shoulder into its round edge and begun to push the sun back uphill…toward spring, toward summer. Slow work at first, but soon, we’ll be adding minutes rather than seconds to each day’s length. Soon.

Well, okay, perhaps that is a trifle too upbeat, or uplight. We are, after all, in Maine, and Mainers like to maintain a squint-eyed skepticism…about all things bright and light. So. Here’s acknowledgment that winter still lies ahead, along with its many freeze-thaw cycles, recalcitrant ice and the skid marks that punctuate our days.

Still, the light is rising, and I also come from Maine stock that had too its optimist. My uncle, Arch Soutar, lifelong Auburn resident, and long-time columnist (State Chat), feature writer and editor for the Lewiston Evening Journal, wrote often about the places where he found a smile and sign of sun in Maine.

The following short story saw my uncle at Poland Springs, and, in the spring of 1965, he too was in search of shifts in light.

Uncle Arch had gone to the resort to interview former heavyweight champion Sonny Liston’s wife and observe the scene while the boxer trained for his rematch with Muhammed Ali. Ali (then Cassius Clay) had upset Liston for the world heavyweight title in 1964, and the May 25th return bout had landed finally and famously in Lewiston. Like many journalists, Arch was looking for the story-beside-the-story, for another angle.

Here’s part of what he found:

“The changed humanity of the place! Handsome Negroes of the Liston entourage were everywhere. Once unthinkable at the Hilltop? Of course. But as I said to Mrs. Liston after saucily inquiring of her if she had encountered any ‘race problem’ (No, she said, she hadn’t). Do you know, Mrs. Liston, it is but a few years since Jewish guests have been welcomed here? Yes, strange as it may seem, our Jewish brothers were not welcomed by the old Ricker management. Time changes things.”

Geraldine’s response: “Change, yes. But for the better, We are all brothers, We are all God’s children.

“It all blends so happily. So sensibly. Jews and Negroes, Priests and Protestants. One whole, entire union of humanity. And it took prizefighters; the ‘fight game’; to bring this happy blending of all races, and creeds and colors of humanity to my attention.”

There is, of course, much history to undercut my uncle’s 50-plus-year-old, optimistic take on the easing of division in our state and country, but I read also in his words the wide-eyed moment of recognition that sees the light of possibility.

Janus, the god of doorways, lends his name to our first month, when we look both backward and forward, when we see what was and what we hope may be.

So, while it may be a hop resembling a leap, I return to the near-present at Simpson’s Point. By the time I returned from my foot-travels, seven cars had joined mine, and the sun was low in the sky just south of Crow Island. Everyone was turned to that light, their faces burnished by it.

Eyes squinted, yes, but we were all getting our added seconds of light, and we were joined by a sort of reverence that had settled over the Point.

We hold sun and affection for its light in common, just as we hold this Point in common too. In a fraught world, it offers a “happy blending” of light, land and humanity.

As I complete this piece, we are promised 44 added seconds of light tomorrow. May the rising light presage a 2020 of optimism and vision for you and for us all.

Sandy Stott is a Brunswick resident, chair of the town’s Conservation Commission, and a member of Brunswick Topsham Land Trust’s Board of Directors. He writes for a variety of publications. His recent book, Critical Hours — Search and Rescue in the White Mountains, was published by University Press of New England in April, 2018; Tantor Media released an audio version of the book in February, 2019. He may be reached at [email protected]

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