Night is black silk studded with the sequin-glint of stars. It is ebon atmosphere and phosphor-green planets; it is the stillness of dead space and the immensity of unreached dimension. It is the gentle swaying of grey tree-tops and the soughing of summer wind. All this and more is night in the wilderness, for now, during its time of sleep and wakefulness, the order of things of the forest changes and those who know it during the hours of sun fail to recognize it when Castor and Pollux vie for notice with the tracery of the Milky Way.
Joan and I lay awake upon our air mattresses within the shelter of the green tent. Inside it was blackness but above, etched against the canvas, the moving shadows of summer maples danced their changing patterns and the canvas walls of our shelter were readily visible against the backdrop of the stars. A wolf howled somewhere in the depth of the bush. It was a melancholy sound to us, yet, I knew, it was made by a growing cub and carried the ebullient playfulness of carefree youth.
Closer to us, infinitely more noticeable, a whip-poor-will chanted its monotonous dirge at the night; whip-poor-WILL, whip-poor-WILL, whip-poor-WILL. A constant cry which characterizes night in this part of the wild and is made by a sleek brown bird, an insect eater whose round orbs shine ruby red in the beam of a flashlight.
This was our first night on The Place and we were exalted by it. There was a feeling of peace and quiet, despite the noises of the forest, such as we had not shared before. I had listened to Canada’s night wilderness, but it had been in other parts and I had been alone. Joan, less accustomed to the wild ~ though of recent times we had taken to camping out in other parts of Ontario ~ had not really heard the fullness of a night such as this.
Undoubtedly she thrilled to the experience, but she was nervous also. There was that wolf howl, repeated again, and there were other things. Black bears, she knew, roamed through this forest, and skunks, with their great smell, and porcupines, with their barbed quills of fire. Her city instincts dwelled upon these things and she saw dangers in them. And yet there was excitement, and newness, and adventure, and pride in this piece of land we had so recently purchased.
Our tent nestled under the lee of big white pines and slender red maples. On three sides we were ringed by trees and beneath the canvas floor of our shelter lay dormant a multitude of needles and mulched maple leaves. In front of our zippered doorway, to the south, was the first rock flat and a ring of granite stones that still contained warm black embers from the fire upon which we had cooked our first supper here.
It was mid-May and still cold at this hour, for though winter has retreated by then in this section of Canada, it has not entirely capitulated and often leaves a frosty rear-guard to remind that one day the snows will come again driven by the north wind. In our sleeping bags we were warm that night, but the body had to remain hidden deep within the quilted shelters and an incautious nose peeping over the coverings was quickly reminded that the temperature outside had dropped to twenty-eight degrees. Still we slept well.
In the morning we awoke to the sound of swift feet pattering across the roof of our tent. It was a chipmunk exploring the new landmark that had blossomed on his home territory. Up the wall on one side, across the roof and down the wall on the other side he journeyed, scurrying back and forth several times, curious and impudent, his tiny feet sounding on the tight canvas like a feeble tattoo of rolled drums. Outside the sun had tipped the trees and was attacking the frost in open places, but beneath the trees and in areas of shadow, crystals of ice shimmered and were able to catch the reflected rays of sunshine and cast them forth again, changing their yellow to green and red and blue and filling the day with a million flecks of winking colour. Breakfast was good that morning.
“The Place in the Forest” (c) 1967 By R.D. Lawrence ISBN 9780888940490
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