The Hundredth Meridian

Endings and Beginnings

The meadow sweeping from the treeline down to the lake below had turned yellow almost overnight, with purple patches of the frost-seared ground cover showing through.  The lake surface was no longer a smooth reflection of the stony peaks, standing against the cold sky and dusted now with new snow, but an infinite series of parallel waves driven ashore by a hard wind.  All summer, the Van Kirks, Ed and James, and I had fished the high lakes hard, driving up to the mountains in early evening and hiking out to the truck well after darkness, following the close of the long summer days.  For weeks past the solstice, the shortening light had been nearly ignorable, before the early frosts hit.  Now not summer alone, but the notion of summer as well, was dispelled.  Summer was finished not for the year only but quite possibly—it seemed—forever.  It was sad, but it was true, and there was no use being sorry about it.  As I approached the bank, a lone duck of some sort, apparently underfledged and flightless, shot from the shoreline toward the middle of the lake, cutting a sliver track across the black water.  There is not much future for a flightless duck on an 11,000-foot-high lake in early September in the Rocky Mountains.

I walked on around the lake, past the curious beaver swimming in circles at a distance from their lodge, toward a quartzite cliff falling almost at a right angle to the...

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