Amherst, Wisconsin, USA | June 18 & 19, 2010
The night sky of the middle latitudes paled above the tree limbs. Leaves shushed a breeze while the calls of frogs twanged across the small lake. Periodically, at indeterminate distances, fireflies flickered like strobe lights to life. We sat in the near dark, an old, deaf lab at our feet, and quietly chatted time to a stand still. Every moment, a firefly. Every one of us, a breathless child clutching an empty jar.
It could have been any year; 1930, 1970, 2010 – only the size of the TV marked the passing of eras. The enormous lodge’s rough-hewn glory had changed little in the preceding decades. The same decayed wooden staircases with the shallow steps tumbled down the hillside to the murky lakelet haloed by lily pads. This feeling, so ripe in the hinterlands, always overflows the senses: nostalgia. Déjà vu in the flesh. The re-experience of the past like a humid summer’s day of the heart. Up here in this middlewoods, in this forested hollow with a lake and a lodge, was some remembered peace.
The next day, the six of us pedaled down country roads past sprouting farm fields, rusty windmills, and solar panels. The wind cooled us and carried away the humidity. With nowhere to go and no place to be, each moment’s visceral center was lain bare. The metallic crunch of shifting gears. The bitter tang of hopped beer lining a parched tongue. The sudden pull of the line, the plunge of a florescent bobber. A field of clover’s sly perfume. These tender details were a welcome end to the negligence of the senses.
Later, we huddled around a fire that burned away the day. In the dark, our eyes filled with flame, only the buzzing incandescent lights remained. Picked out in relief were a chain-link dog choker, a plastic carton of green mouse poison, the curving spines of a buck’s rack. All the baubles and machinations of men seemed tragic and pitiful. Weak swipes of an empty jar. And yet, year after year we return to the same packaged plot of nature as breathless and muted as ever. We escape back to the hinterlands where the wind blows, back to our lodge on the lake, its walls adorned with the heads of majestic beasts. But we never escape the condemnation of their decoration, the reflection of our flailing selves in their flat, black eyes.