Nightwatches

Someone has rearranged the furniture of the firmament

Finally, after what seemed weeks of unbroken clouds and lowering skies, we step out into a clear night. The stars gather into constellations in the inky darkness. The air is sharp and cold; the dog crunches through the snow when I let her out to patrol the yard one last time before we go to bed.

I tread carefully across the porch–ice stutters and skitters in patches I didn’t manage to clear. I face the sea; the horizon is a faint line, pale against the night sky, broken by the humped shapes of islands.

Above me, over my left shoulder, Ursa Major, and over my right, Orion, holding a temporary pattern. I think about how the night sky never looks quite the same from season to season or if you’ve shifted a few degrees of latitude or longitude. It’s as if, when you travel, someone has rearranged the furniture of the firmament. I think about all of the nights I’ve looked skyward from the deck of a boat in the Sea of Cortez in this season, how the air is warm, and smells of bitter oranges and burning trash, the scent of the desert exhaling.

Here the wind bites though my clothing; even lined pants and all of the woolen layers I’m wearing aren’t enough to protect me from the wrenching grip of the cold. The wind sighs through the pines. The sea is still. A kilometre away, out on the road, a truck gears down. It sounds like the rumble of a boat engine, but nothing is running in the harbour; it’s all iced up.

The moon and I

I wake up, insomniac, manic, bristling with plans. Everything is possible, if only I woke and worked through all the dark nights.

But then come daylight, because I am insomniac, nothing is possible. Sleepy, muddle-headed, I fritter the days away, sweep up the dirty dishes and the endless dribble of bits of bark and sawdust that leak from from the logs that we feed into the fire.

A thin crescent moon rises in the southwest at 5:30 am. Its yellow light pools on the icy sea: a brief moment of glory before the sun rises. Caught in a phase when it transits the sky during the day, the moon will become nearly invisible against the glittering blue sky.

We have our times to shine, the moon and I, and we’re getting them all mixed up.

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