The end of Daylight Savings Time is a welcome change for me. When I left my house for North Adams at 6:00 a.m. on Veterans Day, the sun was on its way up behind me, and I could once again see the mountains and the strange orange glow on the bare trees. I had to stop and take a few pictures.
When I pulled into downtown North Adams, there was no one on the street. Crisp brown leaves were swirling around in the north wind. A few piles had become trapped in Newberry’s alley. The pigeons on top of the Kmart sign looked hunched over. The Bean sheltered me as I enjoyed a cup of coffee and read the local newspapers. By 7:30, most of the guys had made it in, and we had a good time trading stories.
This has become my favorite time of year in North Adams. Just when everybody else is lamenting the colder weather and the leafless trees, I am discovering again that there are houses in the hills I forgot about. When the foliage disappears, the houses reappear. We trade one scene for another. The chill drives people inside, and I seem to have the city all to myself. It’s dusk by suppertime, and the early darkness gives me the opportunity to walk past houses with bright windows, and smell the smoke from fireplaces. When I leave for home, I’ve experienced the city for a whole day, sunrise to sunset.
After saying goodbye to the guys, I walked out to the Kmart lot and looked over at the long stretch of houses along Furnace and Walnut Streets. You can see them all now. I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to capture that scene with my camera, but it just doesn’t come out. I can only get little groups of houses with their geometric rooflines and mismatched windows. A train came by. This time, instead of running over to see, I just listened. Do we ever get tired of that sound?
The day just sort of happened. I attended the Veterans Day ceremony, talked to a few people, had a long lunch, and took a few walks. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the hills. I went up to the top floor of 85 Main and looked out at the houses north of River Street. Someone told me that they call that area Fruit Loop Hill, because when the leaves turn, there is a wider assortment of colors than anywhere else in town. I don’t know. But with the leaves gone, I just saw the houses, and that was fine with me. I’m always looking at them.
I went down to the college for dinner. The food is very good there. It’s cheap and easy. Before I went home, I walked out on the terrace that looks back at the city. I could see the old homes on Furnace and Walnut again, but much farther away now. The windows glowed back at me. Age and the mountain climate have not been kind to many of these homes, but tonight, they looked warm and cozy. As I tried to deal with the icy wind, I imagined staring out of one of those windows at the quiet city, and then dropping off to sleep as a freight train rolls through.