Puffer’s Island at night has left me with treasured memories. How very fortunate I was to have known the island after dark, revealing all its secret stories to anyone who would stop and take them in.
On Puffer’s Island, quiet, whispering breezes barely touch the leaves and needles high above the grass and low brush. Night creatures venture their usual haunts, some hungry for prey, others seeking shelter as they nibble seeds or leaves.
This is my favourite time of night.
I remember times on Puffer’s Island, just me, my Mom and Grandma. I would stretch one of the lounge chairs horizontally on the flats below the cottage, then lay back to stare at the huge panorama above. The sky was black. The stars were startling.
As I waited, the grand stretch of the Milky Way would reveal itself, becoming more dense and distinctive as my eyes grew their night vision, adjusting to the blackness — there were few lights in those days.
Floating across the smooth water music played, a voice, a laugh, or across the narrow bay, the glowing end of a burning cigarette would flare, someone taking a long draw.
Grandfather Frog in the Boathouse
Often a bullfrog would croak that deep two-toned call, impossible to understand, but you knew it was full of wisdom. The bullfrog was old and big; he lived in our boathouse, unafraid of boats or curious children wading in after him. We never caught him.
We called him Grandfather, and he would glide under the old and splintered timber crib, his head and big bulbous eyes staring out at us just beyond our fingertips. His continued presence each night, his grandfatherly advice (or so I imagined), perhaps a scold or two, was an embodiment of Puffer’s Island, of summer stars and the Milky Way streamed across the deep black sky; and, no doubt a testament of his endless patience with a child’s curiosity.
The Indian Rock
There were times, too, when I would follow the narrow path behind my Great Grandmother’s cabin, my flashlight’s beam leading the way up to the Indian Rock. I would run my hands across the ancient carvings, fish, half and quarter moons, ellipses hollowed out to grind ceremonial corn.
Giant red or white pines and cedar trees obscured the sky, let only a select few sparklers shine down through their limbs. An owl, prowling for dinner, would hoot from high in one tree, then another, a third, her short brief song echoing close, now far away, now silent but for the swoosh of wings to tell the story of the hunt.
Pine trees have their own song late at night in the dark, answering the vivid silence of fireflies, the clever sonar of bats, the midnight dreams of birds nestled close amongst the heavy branches.
Heat Lightning and the Aurora Borealis
Here, I would feel the temperature release its daytime heat, pulling moisture from the air to settle, changing the feel, the scent all around me. I squirmed in clothes quickly damp as I thought about, wondered the stories of ancient people who might have sat or kneeled exactly where I now lay, laughing, whispering secrets, pausing perhaps as they sensed my presence from the future.
Then I would roll on my stomach, chin resting on knuckles and watch the heat lightning across the rise on the north-east shore opposite, or the white shimmering streaks hinting at blue or green of the aurora borealis. A sky show either way, on a living screen broad and high, eerily silent, yet so alive.
How very fortunate I was to have known Puffer’s Island after dark, its secrets revealed to any who would stop and take them in.
See also: Puffer’s Island