I had stopped drinking hours earlier when my drunken friends stumbled through the darkness and found their tents. Zipped into sleeping bags, clothes rolled into makeshift pillows, they were oblivious to the rock and bony surface roots they slept on. I had dozed off, curled up in a folding chair beside the now fading embers. I woke stiff and chilled, hands jammed into my pockets. Loonsong hung somewhere between dream and daze. A barred owl was calling for her mate.
They were camped on a small island on Barney’s Lake.
I was soon wide awake, loosened up and shook off the cold. Moving slowly and carefully as though the hour were fragile, I stepped onto the smooth bedrock peninsula where we landed the canoes. The sky was a dense mass of stars, the Milky Way a light speckled ribbon from horizon to horizon. Not a breath disturbed the lake. The heavens were reflected in perfect detail. I turned the canoe over and with one knee on the stern, slid it gently into the starlit surface. Without picking up the paddle we drifted out and away from the campsite.
The middle of the night is a lucid time, reason sluggish, dream-shy and humble.
At first it appeared like a dark cloud moving in from the east but as it crossed the sky it didn’t shape-shift like cloud. Nor did it move with the steady push of the high altitude winds. Instead there was a recognizable rhythm to the movement that I realized was the thrust and glide of a boat being rowed. It was as though I were beneath the water looking up at the underside of an approaching dory. As it drew closer I could see the oars dipping, rippling the stars, disappearing, dipping again.
The rowing stopped and the boat glided until it was almost directly overhead. Something arced over the side and fell toward me. A small meteoric object with a thin wisp of light for a tail. It stopped mere feet from the canoe, hung for a moment then began to move up and down as though someone above were jigging. The thing was spoon shaped, lovely and almost discernible. It was sort of like a sparkly snow globe and something was turning inside. I was barely breathing, though my heart was pounding and trembling was beginning to rock the canoe.
At the far end of the lake a loon laughed. Near the campsite a barred owl called for her mate.
It moved closer, I could almost see what was inside. Almost. I reached slowly and it brushed my fingertips, did a half turn on its luminous thread then pulled up and just away. I put both hands on the gunwale and tried to steady the canoe. Then it dropped right in front of my face and I could see exactly what was inside. I snatched fast. It yanked away. I stood quickly. Grabbed and caught it!
An oar dipped and pushed the dory toward the tents below. Something arced over the side and fell. A small meteoric object with a thin wisp of light for a tail.