Mars and a Reflection of Mars
“There are two red planets tonight,” I say. And you reply, “What a brave universe.” And I feel brave. Two 30-lb packs hang near the tent we pitched just before it got dark enough to need headlamps. It’s Night One of this backpacking trip, and I’m an amateur, clumsy at everything, even walking. But right now, we are the only humans on the peninsula at Pharaoh Lake. And we divvy up the skies between us: one for me and one for you. The night’s so black stars reflect on the lake. Mars, too.
And like tiny robot explorers, June bugs buzz our shoulders and zoom around our faces just as our own insect-like machines navigate ocean floors and galaxies. There’s a top and a bottom. A down below. An up above. A loon cries out to its mate, a beautiful weakness in the sound. And the answer. My own loneliness more like foghorn or train whistle. Or the way tires rumble over a bridge. “Don’t forget me when you get across,” I think about those who go ahead.
The next day on the trail, I call to you a dozen times to wait up, my heart thumping in my chest from the weight and the climb. Your heart struggles, too, in its own dark space. As we rest, we note on the map here, where everything – heavy breath, swarming mosquitoes, tall spruce and a brood of grouse – circles a pair of pulsing red planets the size of fists.
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