Maybe it was the silence that woke us at our campsite on Horse Lake. The wilderness is seldom totally quiet, but we caught a moment when air, plants, and animals were simultaneously still. I had experienced such quiet only two other times, once in the Grand Canyon, the other in the Boundary Waters. In any case, I was awake, quietly unzipped the netting, and crawled outside, barefoot.

Before me was a phenomenon few witness: a clear, dark night sky with no light pollution. We were in the largest roadless area in the contiguous states, and it was a long way—2 days’ travel by canoe—to the nearest road and a good deal further to any sort of town. The Moon was almost new and wouldn’t rise for two hours. Below me, I felt the cold, wet, dewy grass of the campsite. It might yet become foggy for the morning travel south through two lakes and a river to Jackfish Bay on Basswood. 

Looking over at the calm lake, I saw Orion’s reflection in the water before I even looked up at the sky itself; Betelgeuse, Saiph, Bellatrix, Rigel, with the three stars in the belt, Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka, all clearly visible. I’ve seen good reflections in the daytime; this reflection was the best I had ever seen at night. Up in the sky was the actual Orion, Jupiter a little to the north, among the stars in Gemini, so bright that I first thought I was seeing Venus, although that was clearly impossible at 1:30 am. 

When I view Orion, I often follow the belt to the right or west two fists at arm’s length to Aldebaran, in Taurus, in the Hyades Cluster and then another fist length to the Pleiades, nearly high overhead, through the white pines on the campsite.  I didn’t have my glasses on, but the sky was transparent, perfectly calm, but if a touch of a breeze came up, fog would form. 

For the first and only time in my life, with the naked eye I could make out the seven bright stars in the Pleiades using averted vision. If one views in low light, looking slightly to the side of a desired object focuses the image on the dim light sensitive rods of the retina, not the bright light sensitive cones of the macula, where sharp, colorful images are discerned, but at the cost of sensitivity in low light. That’s why we see colors poorly at night. In any event, I saw Alcyone, the brightest Pleiad; then Electra, Maia, Celaeno, Sterope, Merope, and…yes, there it really was, Taygate, near Maia.

I’ve noted when it is quiet, I talk in a whisper. There are few places in the modern world where one is immersed in wilderness, dark skies, and silence, my “Outdoor Triad.”  On the September trips, we had either darkness like this or saw the post-Harvest Moon rise almost at the same time for the next two to three nights. If the weather were clear, we could watch the Moon rise through the trees, or, by changing our perspective to the correct one, realized we weren’t seeing the Moon rise, we were watching the Earth rotate. 

Try to watch the Earth rotate sometime. You don’t even need to leave town, although it’s a lot better in the woods. Changing one’s perspective is good for the soul. 

See you on the trail.

Obsidian Journal ( April 2023

One Response to “REFLECTION”

  1. Marjan Says:

    See you on the trial 😊☀️

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