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Lange: Hunting Camp

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

(Lange)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.

There 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.

Willem Lange is a retired remodeling contractor, writer and storyteller who lives in East Montpelier, Vermont.
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