Sunset on Birch Lake: Inside the glow

It was a Tuesday evening about eight o’clock, the July 4 weekend just over, the visitors gone home. I was out in the boat watching a couple of slip bobbers as the sun slowly dipped through the horizon’s haze toward the treetops. Mine was the only boat on the lake, just me and the water, a breeze stirring up the merest ripples. The sun touched the treeline and the walleyes kept the appointment, the feeding window open in the slowly fading light. A bobber went down; I reeled in a feisty marble-eyes, not big enough to keep. I slipped him back into the water, baited up with another leech, cast out again. The other bobber dipped below the surface.

So it went for several minutes, fish biting with regularity. And then I notices the sky. The sun, now out of sight, had lit the haze a brilliant orange-red. The reflection spread across the water; I could cast a bobber into it. Then I realized I wasn’t just watching this sunset – I was inside it. The water glowed. The orange-red light seemed to tint even the air around me, the color three-dimensional. The skin of my hand, the white boat seat and tan floor, the bobber floating in the reflection, picked up the sheen. I couldn’t help but set the fishing aside and look on in awe.

I had my smart phone – if anything deserved a picture, this did. I aimed at the northwest horizon and composed to the rule of thirds, careful to catch the full extent of the color in the sky and the even brighter hue of the reflection, contrasting the dark of the treeline. So brilliant was this sunset that even the phone’s rudimentary camera did it reasonable justice. I sent the image to my family and several friends, then got back to fishing, not gazing at the sunset, merely basking in it. Soon the walleyes shut down and the western haze faded to gray smoke. I pulled up the anchor and motored slowly toward the pier, the sky still holding a bit of rosy tint. I tied up the boat, slipped the covers on the seats, gathered the fishing gear and stepped onto the dock. Although the spectacle was over, I sat a while on the bench, looking west.