Back in 2001, before 9/11, Roger Wolfson’s New Year’s resolution was to spend more time watching sunsets, and soon, nature rewarded this effort. He was living on his sailing catamaran, Kinship II, on the Hudson river at the time.
In early September, a cold, rainy New York weekend came to a shockingly abrupt end. At four in the afternoon Roger drove into the Lincoln Tunnel from the Manhattan side. In the city, it was dark, foreboding, and drizzly. When he emerged from the tunnel on the Jersey side, however, the sky was bright and clear, and only small bunches of clouds clung to the horizon line. He parked, walked to the dock, and suddenly saw a massive, perfect, monstrous rainbow stretching from the Empire State Building over the Hudson River to the hills of Northern New Jersey. He literally tore down the dock onto the boat, revved up the engines, let out the Jib, and sailed out onto the Hudson, underneath the rainbow.
But rainbows have a way of staying distant, and this one went so far as to evaporate as they neared it. Still, it was replaced by the sunset. The clouds in the distance looked like a series of lavender mountains tilting off the horizon. White caps danced at the tops of the waves, and birds followed Roger upriver, diving into his wake.
On September fourth, Roger Wolfson drove from Narragansett, Rhode Island, due West to New Haven, Connecticut. He tried to practice “driving mindfully;” which to him (based on Thick Nat Ham’s “The Miracle of Mindfulness”) meant driving like his car was a holy relic, his parents were a king and queen, and the drive would take forever. It meant getting lost in the experience and living it fully.
Nature seemed to want to support this effort, and the sunset was nearly miraculously extended for the entire hour and a half trip. The sky began a bright orange, then a pale blue, then a deeper blue with golden fringes, for the entire way. As they drove up hills, it seemed they were pointed at the rising moon and rich sky; as they descended hills, the fullest colors of the sunset appeared before them, pink clouds silhouetted against the deepening sky. The drive ended with the arrival of the first stars.
On sunset, September 8th, Roger Wolfson walked along the beach of Hiltonhead. He watched a family of pelicans glide in perfect and silent formation along the water, scraping the surface gently when they flapped, then gliding as smoothly as one can imagine. There was no wind, no waves, so the surface of the water perfectly reflected the radiant purples and golds of the sky. Toward the horizon, as the birds faded away, the sky and water became a singular canvas of silver, and it appeared that the birds were drifting away into the infinite.
Two days ago, September 10th, Roger decided to spend the day sailing. He sailed up the Hudson and then back down, visiting with the Statue of Liberty for sunset. The clouds were the main event that night; with the entire sky coated by a perfect grid of little puffy clouds, like the cotton of a tantalizingly transparent summer sweater. Around that time he decided, “What the hell, we just bought a generator and heating system for the boat. Why not anchor out tonight?”
So he anchored right there at the foot of the statue of Liberty, in between Ellis Island and a park in New Jersey, a quiet and secluded spot, turned on the propane fireplace, and spent the evening eating, reading, and writing, as the boat drifted silently and gently in circles around our anchor.
Roger Wolfson can’t really describe what it is like to wake up, at anchor, at the Statue of Liberty. The wind was very gentle and the waves seemed to move so slowly, just folding over the tops of each other, that it seemed like he was living in slow motion. A couple of birds used the gentle wind as opposition and hung over the boat, barely moving. In the park nearby, a few master kite flyers showed off their skills in a private ceremony – apparently just for them and Roger and Mark – with stunning virtuosity. It was a like a combination of fireworks and an air show of the Blue Angels jets, with kites diving and dancing and drifting around each other, through each other, in total anarchy and then instantly in perfect formation again, celebrating clearly impossible skills. Their wings caught fire with the colors of the rising sun.
And then an explosion in the distance, across the Hudson. As far as Roger knows, his boat was the last boat ever to anchor at the foot of the Statue of Liberty, given new security measures. As for the sunsets – they were blood red for weeks. And, to Roger’s eyes, they have never quite been the same.