• Fred R. Kline


WINTER NIGHT BY BLUE MOONLIGHT LIT 7th Heaven Ranch, Pecos River Valley, Winter 2005 ©copyright Fred R. Kline 2005-2020 Winter night by blue moonlight lit, the land snow-covered. This night I walked the dogs before dinner. It was later than usual. Work at the gallery in Santa Fe had kept us.

Jann chose not to walk but to cook instead her latest blue- ribbon dish, fresh salmon croquets (the salmon pre-cooked, not canned)—mixed with raw onion, raw egg, bread crumbs, and parsley; skillet browned in butter, with ample salt and pepper. Try one. If the aroma of their cooking got out on the wind, it could redirect an army at a distance of thirty miles; it could raise hibernating bears from their caves in the surrounding Sangre de Cristo Mountains. They are so good they can be eaten cold for breakfast the next day with rich black coffee and toast and, if you really understand, with a juicy chunk of pickle. So good that I will share only small amounts with my dogs who seem to love it as much as their ration of ice cream.

Cold came first to my ears because I forgot my night-walking hat with the silver horned-toad pin, both of which daughter Dia and son-in-law Jack gave me one Christmas with Dia's sweet reminder, “This will keep your ears warm, Daddy”. [ I mention other kids here and their clothing gifts that I was wearing: Jarrett and Glory-my warm Patagonia undershirt; Aren-vest and shoes; Tara-warm socks; Mitch-warm scarf ].

I kept the flashlight off in favor of the blue moonlight. Snow-that-sparkles-like-stars surrounds me— there is an Inuit (aka Eskimo) word I forgot, one of scores they have for the nuances of snow. Poet’s snow! Arctic thoughts, Inuit words. I invite memories of exploring in the vast otherworldly wildernesses of Alaska and Baffin Island when I was a writer for National Geographic in the 1970’s.

I had daydreamed in morbid and romantic moments of my epitaph—lost in the Aleutian Islands while sailing alone in his Kayak: the purpose of Kline’s exploration remains unknown...lost in a crevasse on Penny Ice Cap…lost in quicksand crossing Pangnirtung Pass…eaten by a grizzly bear in the woods of Kodiak Island..lost overboard on a king crab boat in the Bering Sea. I search memory for the stories within these experiences.

The bright stars themselves are lights on the snow. Sky and earth glitter as one. I draw swirls and spirals of light in the sky with my flashlight, I connect the star dots and create new constellations. Happy I am to be alive in this moment and in this place, on this sparkling Earth among the sparkling stars.

My dogs—Bear, Scout, and Sailor—frolic like kids, thanks to Sailor the chocolate Lab who is still a kid. Kiss, kiss, kiss. Sailor has already won his way in this world by kissing and frolicking. Sailor’s name comes by way of Lewis and Clark. When I named him, I thought of Meriwether Lewis’s dog—an explorer’s dog, the black Newfoundland mascot of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery—and I remembered his name as “Sailor”, which I thought was also a fitting name for a water-loving Lab.

Weeks into using the name, and having told everyone its derivation, I decided to dip back into Stephen Ambrose’s "Undaunted Courage" where I had first read anecdotes about the dog. Memory had failed! Lewis had named the giant dog “Seaman”, not Sailor! What a relief that I didn’t have to call out, “Seaman…Seaman, come…come!” Particularly in a public place. “Seaman, Seaman, come…come!” I might have been arrested for calling my dog. #