June 21, 1917 Hesperus and Phosporous

June 21, 1917

It’s the summer solstice today. For the first time ever, the sun sets after 9 o’clock. It’s been setting a few minutes after 9 for the past few days now but since Daylight Savings Time went on for the very first time this year, it’s made the evenings longer. The extra hour is supposed to save coal and electricity in the cities. It doesn’t make any difference here, save for the changes it makes to the train schedules. Shannon said the extra hour of daylight is good for the crops. I believe he was joking on that point, but  you’re never sure. Astronomy is not his strong point. He’s hard-pressed to find the Big Dipper. He doesn’t understand the fuss about the Northern Lights, which the city folk like to call “Aurora Borealis.” Shannon thinks that term is a shameful waste of syllables.

Once, in jest, I said Shannon was as “constant as the northern star,” hoping that he would catch the allusion. I quickly realized it was lost on him on both counts. First – the reference to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar – Shannon’s literary depth went as far as compiling a grocery list. And second – that the North Star stayed in one spot in the sky – Shannon was still struggling with the concept of an extra hour of daylight. I could understand him not grasping the first allusion, but the second one, I found it inconceivable that he didn’t know that one. It’s fortunate that  Shannon does not have to rely on the stars to navigate Canoe Lake at night-time. He just has to follow the smell of Annie’s cooking.

The weather has turned for the better. The evening was serene. It was warm and the slight breeze  kept the bugs away. Knowing the weather would be nice, I decided to camp for the evening at Hayhurst Point. My campsite there is semi-permanent. It was my home away from home – just few minutes escape by canoe and easy to get back into operation.

I managed to catch a good trout for dinner. I wasn’t sure if I was going to catch anything, so I brought a few slices of bacon with me as well. I decided to prepare  both. I have more than enough food, so I’d keep my eye on the lake and if there happened to be a passerby, I’d invite them for supper.

The evening was beautiful, and nothing could be better than preparing a meal in such pleasant weather. I got the fire going, cleaned the trout, packed it with some flour and butter and put it in the reflector oven beside the fire. Then I started on the bacon and tea. There is a special trick to making tea. Most people think you add the leaves after you boil the water, but that’s not the case. You start with lake water and cold as you can get it, throw in the leaves, and remove the pot just before it comes to a boil. The real trick is to bring the water as close to a boil, but not quite  boiling.

Bacon preparation has its secrets too. You can’t just fry it. You have to parboil it first. The bacon has lots of salt for preservation, so you have to get that salt out first. You put an inch of water in the frying pan with the bacon and bring it a boil for a couple of minutes. You remove the water then fry it.

During meal preparation time, you have to keep your eye on the tea. It’s the making of good tea that makes the best tips for guides. properly steeped tea makes everything taste good. It has to be the right temperature, served at the right time, just before the meal. As soon as the lid shows a hit of steam coming from it, you take it from the fire. Once removed, you throw in a handful of cold water and that makes the leaves go to the bottom. That’s the secret technique – the other secret, as I said, is to make sure it is timed with the other food preparation.

After about a half-hour my dinner was ready, tea as well. Nobody came by in a canoe, so I had no dining partner. That was okay. I had dinner by the shore by myself. I watched the sun go down. The evening star was out – Venus, or Hesperus as it is known in Greek mythology. For all the wisdom of the Greeks, they never knew that Phosphorous (the morning star) was the very same Venus of the evening before. Hesperus and Phosphorous were the very same being, but the Greeks never figured this out. It was only when man learned that the heavens didn’t circle about the Earth that the someone figured out they were the same. It was the myth that kept man away from the true fact of the matter.

This train of thought reminded me of the ‘Wreck of the Hesperus,” the poem I knew by heart, and sang to Fanny Case and her girls. In some ways I feel the inevitability of the ‘Wreck of the Hesperus.’ Is this my fate too? Maybe I need to write a new poem called, ‘Rise of Phosphorous’, about the evening star, Hesperus, disappearing into the night, only to reappear the next day as Phosphorous, a new and different being to everyone. The secret that Venus held for millennia – that Hesperus and Phosphorous, were the same – and nobody knew. A  poem is a myth that creates a new reality.  Or maybe, it is the other way around. In either case, I needed a new reality, not just a new poem or myth. Poems and myths are for others. I’m not sure where these thoughts are taking me.

I hear the whistle of a distant train. Just a single long whistle. That means it is about to cross a trestle bridge , warning everyone well in advance.

The whistle has jolted me out of my thoughts and I look back out towards the shore. The sun is going down. The wind has stopped and the lake has turned to golden glass. It is about as peaceful as it could ever be. As for the heavenly bodies, I can only see Hesperus, but the other stars are coming out. I can’t yet see the Northern Star. But since it is constant, I knew exactly where to look. It will appear in due time. And tomorrow I will see Phosphorous.

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