14 Nov 2017

Red Sky

In one of William Shakespeare’s earliest works from 1593, he penned sentiments about Venus and Adonis that referenced the ability of the sky to foreshadow the weather. “Like a red morn that ever yet betokened,” he wrote, “wreck to the seaman, tempest to the field, sorrow to the shepherds, woe unto the birds, gusts and foul flaws to herdmen and to herds.” “Betokened” I discovered, means a warning or indication of a future event. Thus, the more contemporary saying heeded by sailors and farmers (shepherds) alike – “Red sky at night is a delight, red sky in the morning take warning.”
On a recent brisk autumn morning, all Nantucket was awakened by the extraordinary display in the photo above. The entire sky was on fire with hues of red, purple and orange. It was not only breathtaking, it was fodder for animated conversation at the gym, the coffee shop and the gas station. All the seasoned locals surmised that red sky could mean only one thing; a storm was incoming. It may be an adage older than Shakespeare, but by early afternoon the winds had picked up and the rain began to fall. The front was fast-moving and damage was minimal, but it seems the lore has some truth to it.
When you live on or visit an island that’s 30 miles out to sea, weather indicators and predictions become more than just tools to help plan the weeks recreational activities. They literally are critical in arranging travel to and from the island and can be life-saving for those on the water. All of us who travel frequently know to always have a “Plan B” when drafting our itineraries. The phrase “we ditched” is commonly understood terminology among island folk. It’s how we describe hustling to get our car in the ferry line a day or two ahead of schedule when the forecast turns grim. By the time the sky is red, “ditching” is not always an option.
This incessant need to consider alternative plans is frustrating to some of our summer guests. But for those of us who live here or have been visiting for many years, it’s just part of island life. And frankly, it’s part of the adventure that most of us not only embrace, but find secretly invigorating. I’ve seen more than one local step out of their car and do a little happy dance in the Steamship lot as they snag the last standby spot on the final boat to sail before a storm. It always elicits shared smiles and a few beeps of the horn from fellow sojourners who understand the victory.
Despite any travel hiccups, living in a place where we’re at the mercy and the blessing of Mother Nature is a humbling experience. It’s good for the psyche and good for the soul to be forced to take each day as it comes, knowing we aren’t in control and can do nothing to dictate the days events. It allows us to be awed by the wind, waves and stars and be wowed and not alarmed by the red sky in the morning. When we’re lucky enough to glimpse that same red sky at night, we get the opportunity to do it from the shore, glass raised in a toast to our beloved island.
Be delighted.
Shellie Dunlap  
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