January 26, 2019 11:05:39 PM
It was a scene straight out of Huck Finn. Two guys standing around a campfire on a remote island in a wide river, bright moon and stars overhead.
HD and Matt had paddled out before dark to put out set hooks. That was more than two hours ago. Now they held their hands to a sparking fire, occasionally leaving its warmth to check their lines or venture into the woods for firewood. Jim and Huck would have coveted their headlamps.
One of our number had organized a river outing Sunday timed to see the lunar eclipse, aka the Super Blood Wolf Full Moon. "Super" because the moon would be unusually close to the earth, "Blood" for its color during the eclipse and "Wolf" because that is the name of the first full moon of the year.
I should have waited for the tug headed upstream to pass before launching from Waverly Landing, but I was anxious to get on the water. My impatience was rewarded with the glare of the tug's searchlight in my face as I paddled back and forth waiting for the boat to pass. Adding to that, a surging current magnified by recent rains pushed my kayak toward a tangle of fallen trees nestled against the old railroad bridge.
The night was bright and our site was not far away. With the tug out of the way, my crossing went smoothly.
Winds from earlier in the day had subsided, but the temperature had dropped below freezing. As I climbed from my kayak, Jim and Huck, glad to see another compatriot, offered hearty hellos.
Days before we had come out and prepared the site, cutting away briers and stacking wood gathered from the forest floor. Nothing to be done about the soggy ground.
All in all, it was surprisingly cozy standing by the fire, joking, talking, occasionally looking up through the bare trees to check on progress of the eclipse.
One of our party, waiting on shore for stragglers called to see how we were doing. "Larry, I've caught a mermaid," HD said. "She's on the stringer. What do I do with her?"
Larry, who is the perfect straight man for HD, was confused. HD continued riffing about the mermaid.
As the Earth's shadow began to creep over the face of the moon, we stared upwards in wonder. Precisely at 10:41, as projected, the eclipse was total. The moon had become an orangish-red sphere. The full eclipse would last about an hour.
Too seldom we pause to consider these cosmic events as old as time, these gentle reminders of our insignificance and the ephemeral nature of our existence. Instead, we squabble, kill one another, degrade this fragile planet, our home.
Meanwhile, the stars continue to glow in the heavens, indifferent to the folly below.
With a shaded moon, the river had grown dark. The blinking stars were our only light now. We paddled back across the river, this time working against the current.
On the way home, at the turnoff to Officers Lake Road, I pulled over and got out. I wanted one last look at the orange moon on this cold winter night.
Birney Imes ([email protected]) is the former publisher of The Dispatch.
Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.
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