It was dark when we left the barn after the last lecture. Outside, Jim’s wife waited for me with a flashlight. I pulled my sleeping bag and duffle from the back of my Subaru and followed her across the meadow. High above the barn where the haflingers were bedded down, a full moon broke through the clouds.
At the far end of the meadow we found the path that led down the hill to the hollow above the creek. You could hear the water rushing down over the rocks in the night. Off to the left I could make out the lines of a cabin in the moonlight.
Jim’s wife opened the door. I followed her inside and threw my bag and duffle on the high bed. She lit an electric lantern and held it up so I could survey the room.
“You’ll probably want a fire for the night. Stoke the stove full and let it burn down to coals. It’ll be nice and toasty inside. I left a couple of heavy throws on the bed in case you need them. Breakfast is at eight o’clock. Good night.”
I looked about the room. The cabin was perhaps fifteen by thirty feet, housing three windows, one on each side and another in front next to the door. A writing desk stood opposite the double bed. Another wooden desk stood at the far end near the wood stove. The tinder box rested against the opposite wall. A double bladed ax leaned up against the back wall, and a number of fishing poles lay cradled in a rack on the wall above the ax. One of them—a fly rod—looked to be at least ten feet in length.
Three chairs rested between the desks and the bed. I thought of the three chairs in Thoreau’s hut: one for solitude, two for company, three for society. This night only one would be necessary for me.
I set a lighted match to the kindling and stoked the stove with several split logs. The dry wood caught quickly. The fire made a whooshing sound as flames drew up the flue.
I rooted through my duffle and pulled out a set of long johns. I undressed by the light of the electric lantern and hung my trousers and shirt on a nail by the window. The thermometer on the wall read 52 degrees.
In the desk I found two books: one on fly-fishing with an introduction by Jack Hemingway and another with watercolor prints of various species of trout. I laid out my sleeping bag on the bed and crawled in and paged through the book on trout until the words fell out of focus. Afterwards, I turned out the electric lantern and drifted off to sleep with the sound of the cascading brook in my ears.
Sometime during the night I got up to check the stove. The fire had burned down to glowing embers. I slipped on my boots and stepped outside. Overhead the full moon burned in the night canopy. This was Lorca’s luna, one and the same, sailing through a sea of smoky clouds. A poem by e. e. cummings came to mind—
O (rounD) moon, how
than roUnd) float;
lly & (rOunder than)
I returned to bed once more and awoke several hours later to find the full moon sitting on the edge of the silhouetted black mountain above the gorge.
I was up at first light. The stove was cold. Methodically, I stripped off my long johns and donned my clothing. I gathered my gear and stowed it back into the duffle bag, rolled up the sleeping bag, stuffed it into the sack and cinched the drawstring tight.
I stepped out into the cool morning air. For the first time I noticed that the maple leaves had turned a golden yellow; many had already fallen to the ground. I hiked up the back hill to the pasture, carefully separating the hemlock branches now wet with dew.
The haflingers were out feeding on their flakes of hay. They looked up when I stepped out through the trees, then resumed their breakfast. I watched them eat before descending the hill back to the cabin. Jim’s wife was calling from the path. “Come up to the house. You can get a hot shower before breakfast,” she said.
It was only when I turned to leave, my arms laden with gear, that I glimpsed the painting wedged on the shelf above the door below the beams. A white-bearded man bowed his head over hands folded next to a crust of bread.