The end of the day in the summer months can be a long, drawn out event in northern latitudes. The extended, seemingly endless twilight, on both temporal sides of the summer solstice is one our planets most beautiful sights. Before the sun begins to fall over the horizon clear skies may appear yellow turning to orange. As the sun blends into the horizon like butter melting in a hot cast iron pan the distant view may turn tangerine to fuchsia. And as the solar display wanes, as it dips below the blackened and distant edge of earth, the view can linger in all of its flamingo colored glory for hours.
On Lac Wetetnagami, a wilderness lake found within the Hudson Bay watershed in northern Quebec, clear skies often mean a tranquil lake. As a slight breeze might blister the water’s surface at the end of the day and the reflection is caught like a oil painting on textured canvas there is little one can do to adequately take all of this glory in. This experience, one I have seen over a number of years, is like being immersed into a real life painting where you are part of the picture; completely surrounded by the colors and hues of the falling sun. These boreal sunsets increase in intensity immediately after the sun succumbs to the horizon and then the light hangs on for hours as the sun stays just below the western horizon. On the longest day of the year, June the 21st in most years, night never truly finds complete darkness. There remains a hint of pink or copper light in the western skies until the sun appears again in the northeast as the next day begins anew.
The back drop to the awe of these northern end-of-day experiences is equally bewildering. Loons laugh both far and near. Wolves mark a kill in the distance by howling out victory. A moose may bawl just to call out to the night. And songbirds, of nearly endless varieties, brighten the atmosphere with brilliant territorial songs that are the purest music of these north woods.
When I was young I used to sit on a hummock in a nearby kettle swamp and wonder what paradise might be like. I had no real experience to imagine how wonderful this world could be. But I did know that I felt most comfortable in wild surroundings. Now I know what paradise is, at least for this old rambler of wild places. It is wilderness, near dark, where the impact of human activity is far off in the distance, and the beauty of the natural world is close at hand. It is a summer evening sunset at 11 PM in the wild on a lake in the boreal forest. It is the edge of night where new colors are invented with each nearly everlasting sunset. It is a time for thought and reflection. But most of all a time for appreciation for what is right with our planet. It is peace, tranquility, and solitude.
It is simply beautiful.