Lying back on a hammock and patio chairs, the four of us stare up at a sky perforated with pinpoints of light. The Big Dipper. The North Star. Cassieopia. And across the top, like a hazy cummerbund, the Milky Way.
It’s the last day of August, the middle night of the Labor Day weekend. We’re on the dock at the cabin of friends on Burntside Lake near Ely. We are comfortable in shirtsleeves and shorts, spanking clean from the sauna and subsequent plunges in the lake. Now we simply lie back, craning at constellations, beholding the wonder and mystery of the galaxy, announcing each shooting star.
Three Labs, two blacks and a yellow, click toenails on the cedar planks, moving from one of us to another, seeking love. Or at least an ear rub.
Perhaps there is a heaven. I am not sure about that. All I know is that life here on Earth does not get much sweeter than this. Old, fast friends. Cabin lights winking across the lake. The black treeline of wise old pines. The baby-breath breeze. And all those stars.
Somewhere out there, loons idle. Mallards sleep, bills tucked in their backs. The osprey chicks in the nest just down the bay snuggle down in their basket of sticks.
There are a lot of good places to live in this world. Places with tropical birds and coral reefs and endless beaches. Places with wild rivers and blue mountains and retired volcanoes. Places with caribou herds and elephants and roseate spoonbills.
But here in the middle of Labor Day weekend, on a dock, under a million nightlights, northern Minnesota has never felt more right.