10 p.m. in the Pennsylvania Wilds

The forest is black. Not chilling black like the entrance to a cave, but a certain soft, comfortable black that comes from a hundred shadows widening into one. All is silent except for rushing water, and for a dozen tiny voices piping an invitation from the creek, “Knee deep! Knee deep!”

There is a rabbit-hole in the black, and if you walk towards it, you’ll find yourself tumbling upon a brighter world: a softly illuminated rock beach, above which a determined moon is sprinkling faded moonbeams down the water path.

Fog shrouds the eastward river, then reveals it. “Sit down and learn the mysteries of the night,” whispers the water, very beguiling.

Can you resist this invitation? No. You sit, and turn your face obediently, noticing the wall of hemlocks towering above you. Perfectly silhouetted just like a black ink sketch by Sam Larson, they stand at attention against the grey, much more dependable than the dashing run below them.

Fireflies bounce upwards, one yard at a time, darting between drops of fog-water, doing their best to make up for the hidden stars.

Charcoal whisps chase each other across the slate sky, stacking themselves up for the next downpour.

Together, hemlocks and fireflies and slate sky become a Christmas display in foggy December: a wall of Christmas trees strung with lights.

Fog blankets the forest, lighter than a down comforter, seeping down to fill every crevice, drifting closer, trying to lull the whole valley into rest.

The air smells piney, and earthy, and wet; fresh and alive like 6 a.m. on a mountain in Maine.


Maybe one day we will have no need for sleep.




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