First Time in the BWCA and Solo
by Ben Savitt (1 of 3)

Orange tongue forking, licking at rough pine, splintered spruce, breathing smoke into the air. Dull reddish light presses outward at the blackness making a protected place where thoughts are free. Beyond the glow, buzzing, rustling, thumping, scurrying, I don't know, wild creatures doing night things. I sing some, in a low voice, melancholy, not out of sadness, but out of rightness, the sound of my own voice a comfort and a companion. My girl, my girl, where will you go, I'm going where the cold wind blows. In the pines, pines, sun don't ever shine, I'm going where the cold wind blows. That's all I know. I sing it under my breath over and over. A quiet song fit for an alone place.

Notes from my two-dollar harmonica blend with the wood smoke, hang in the air. I never learned to play, but in these woods, it comes naturally. The hot cider is sweet, cinnamony and good, it warms me, soothing the aches wrought of paddle and portage. I lift the tin mug to my lips and draw deeply letting the aroma fill my head, in my hand, it warms away the sting of calluses and blisters.

Heat lightning on the western horizon, a rolling thunderclap from across the lake, the stars overhead have disappeared. The storm is coming and I have much to prepare. I tie down the canoe, repack the gear, stow the trusty old gransfors hand-axe, tarp the tent, I am ready for you Storm, finally. I stride the darkness, the underbrush and tangles down to the jutting boulders of the shore.

The words from so long ago return to me now.