Pink Skies at Night
It was probably illegal, yet still I clambered out into an opening of Chapel Rock along the Pictured Rocks of Lake Superior and wedged myself into position of mediation. Then again, it was after Labor Day and the trolls had returned below the bridge. I had the bay all to myself.
Staring out across an unsalted sea, my mind embarked on amazing journeys, the first to query who taught me, “Pink skies at night, sailor’s delight.” I took the first answer to pop into my head – my dad. It sounded like a dad thing to say.
Out on the water I noticed I was no longer alone. A kayaker appeared bobbing in the waves, foolish enough to paddle solo to this remote little bay. I had hiked 4.1 miles from civilization to camp at this revered spot in the national lakeshore, but the nearest boat launch was a twenty-mile expedition among lateral waves pounding fifty-foot cliffs. Hadn’t this guy ever heard ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’?
Apparently, he hadn’t, nor had he done much camping, as we discovered later that night.
He kept to himself while my mind continued nomading, asking profound questions about God, the universe, and why I only brought peanut butter and bagels on my three-day pilgrimage. Would that bottle of Jack really been too heavy for a fifteen-mile hike?
Meditation over, I witnessed a sunset glowing such a pink that sailors danced jigs. I descended from Chapel Rock and hung my peanut butter and bagels in a sack high between two pines. I had been camping long enough to know you’re never truly alone in the woods.
Several pine trees away, the kayaker curled up in his sleeping bag beside his drybag of goodies.
I drifted off with the stars only to awaken to the glow of my watch flashing 2:05am as I heard him howling, “Scram! Get out of here! Go away!” to the furry thieves trying to pinch his culinary delights.
I pointed my flashlight at my own stuff sack suspended in the pines and saw a scene that flashed like a Polaroid, forever etched in the permanent history of my mind.
Hugging the base of the tree on the right was a smallish raccoon. Twenty feet above him, where the rope to my food bag straddled a sturdy branch, were two more masked bandits pulling on the rope, hoping to release the bagels from their captivity. Right below the bag was a fourth burglar staring up with hands raised as if to say, “I got it!”
He turned toward my light and gave an “Oh, shit! We’re caught!” face before leaving his friends holding the rope. They, too, quickly scrambled out of the tree and out of range of the flashlight.
Two thoughts occurred. First, this wasn’t the first time these raccoons had ever seen a “bear bag” tied in the trees. They had a plan of attack. Second, I hoped they pilfered enough goodies from the kayaker to satisfy them and refrain them from coming back to my tree for seconds.
At sunrise the kayaker and I shared peanut butter and bagels and swapped stories. He lamented the loss of his drybag and not stockpiling enough sticks to throw at the “mischievous little trash pandas”. I lamented not having a flash camera to record the face of that masked monster.
He then launched for his return paddle, while I dove into the refreshing chill of the lake they call Gitchee-Gumi.
The northern icy waters brought my wandering mind home. In an instant I knew. It was definitely my dad who first told me, “Pink skies at night.”
– Phil Wrzesinski