Remembering Neil Armstrong’s 90th Birthday

The Cabin by the Lake

Whenever he couldn’t leave the small abode, and it had been many days now, it helped to remember the cabin where he’d gone fishing with his father in those long-ago summers. The cabin with the ramshackle wooden pier that led out to the lake, from where he’d watched the silver fish, with their chainmail skins, weave sinuous motions through the water. Hypnotised that anything could be so beautiful, the sun a furnace whose doors were flung wide each dawn to bestow untold bounty on field and meadow alike. A radiance from boyhood that he could still feel on his skin.

Now in the prolonged winter night the sun seemed to have retreated from the Earth, taking its place in an unfamiliar constellation, just one point of luminescence amongst many. An eldritch sky grown alien with the absence of light, the weave of the universe a threadbare thing, like the coat of a raggedy man too long upon the highway.

The extended traverse through the night was nearly over, and there was some solace in that. Enough to push back the shadows. He was almost ready to leave the cabin. He stood up from the bench and pressed his feet into the padded boots, pushed his fingers into the thick gloves, and made sure his head gear was fixed in place. He could see nothing through the small window except, he thought, a pale reflection of the Earth itself, a floating hemisphere blue-green in the vastness. A spectral trick played upon him by some odd conjunction of distance and perspective.

He turned and pushed open the door, which stuck a little, resisting his exertions as if snow lay on the other side. The stale air inside the cabin pushed past him, eager to be gone, like an errant lover before the dawn. In the threshold he turned and placed one foot on the top rung of the short ladder, before commencing his descent. He felt one heel go down into the powdery surface, then the other, the dust of numberless aeons beneath his boots. He turned to face the pristine world, a strange magnificence in the desolation that lay before his eyes. The words, the verse of history itself, already on his lips: “That’s one small step for a man. One giant leap for Mankind.”     

Neil Armstrong



In memory of Neil Armstrong 1930 – 2012.


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