Lange: Hunting Camp

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(Host) It’s deer season, but Willem Lange’s attention has been on the stars above the dark wilderness.

I stepped outside the cabin during the night. First thing, I noticed
the cold: down in the teens, at least. Then the roar of the falls at the
lower end of Hellgate. The moon had set. Crossing the porch, I realized
that in the blackness of the night, I was seeing my way by starlight.
The sky was literally breathtaking. We’ve forgotten what it once was to
live without electric lights everywhere.

My eye always goes to
Arktos, the Great Bear of the Greeks that revolves around the pole. Then
the Little Bear, whose star Polaris is the pivot point of all the
northern stars. Last night’s sky was so clear I could trace even Draco
(namesake of Harry Potter’s boarding school nemesis). Then downward to
Cassiopeia and Andromeda. Andromeda had a faint smudge near her belt:
the only galaxy other than our own visible to the naked eye. Above my
left shoulder, a tiny gathering of faint stars drew my eyes next to the
Pleiades and, chasing them, Orion, the hunter, and his big dog, Sirius.
Behind me hung Jupiter, huge and bright as a jumbo jet’s landing light.
Above the ridge across the river, a small meteor streaked for half a
second and vaporized.

I’d have stayed there longer, except that I
was barefoot in only my undershorts, and the grass was crusted with
ice. I bade the heavens good night, tottered into the cabin, toasted my
feet at the box stove, and climbed into my warm sleeping bag.

are seven of us here in camp, three young guys and four old: thus three
hunters, two former hunters, and two more who haven’t quite put their
rifles away for good. Eric and I still wander out on short hunts during
the afternoon and return in time for hors d’oeuvres before supper. Put,
the chef, gets supper ready for whenever the boys come stomping through
the door, with a blast of cold air and animal energy. They’re off to bed
in the bunkhouse around eight, get up again at four, eat breakfast, and
are in the woods by dawn. As many years as I did that, and loved it, I
find I don’t miss it a bit.

Yesterday I hiked up an old logging
road. Where it was in shadow, the puddles were frozen; in the sunlight
they were thawed. Hellgate Pond was iced over. I sat on the bottom of an
overturned scow and joined the stillness of the place. I hadn’t made a
sound or moved, as far as I could tell, but a pair of Canada jays
spotted me and landed beside me suggestively. I dug out a few pieces of a
Mr. Goodbar, and they flew  to my hand to take them. Their claws felt
strangely intimate on my bare fingers. Then it was time to go. I may
find my friends’ solicitude annoying, but it’s nice to know they’ll come
looking if I don’t get back on time.

This is Willem Lange in Montpelier, and I gotta get back to work.

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