We make a merry trail—the music of the paddles, the colored glowsticks, the lamps glittering at their own reflections. Bats swoop low under a moon-milk sky. I know it’s insects they’re after, but still they seem to be chasing our lights.
Thirty-five boats on the river tonight.
For some, there’s a crescent edge of fear. They see the fingers of fallen trees reaching up through the current and take note of their own heartbeats. But most are simply happy to be here. How beautiful, on such an evening, to have three kayaks to patrol our edges, guide us through the rough spots.
Conversations carry across the water, voices surfacing singly and in groups. There’s electricity, not just an effect of the lights, but a pure human energy—people connecting, sharing, watching out for each other. In the dark, separated from the solid earth that grounds us, we are reduced to something essential, something pure.
My lantern skims the river ahead of the bow, a jar of fireflies to shine the way. The sweeper comes up from behind and sends a low call echoing downstream. I can’t quite make out his words, but the meaning is clear:
Keep joy, my friends. No one will be lost tonight.