On a bright fall day, my husband and I are canoeing the Betsie River. Our favorite stretch is the flooded area above the Grass Lake dam which was created as a habitat for waterfowl.
We steer between high walls of cattails—against a strong wind. My head is down in fierce concentration but when I glance up, I see how the cattails are dancing. They bow and sway with such grace, I stop cursing the wind and celebrate this perfect partnership.
High above the river in a dead pine tree, we see two bald eagles—watching us as we watch them. Further on, we notice a fresh beaver lodge and stare at the swirling water, hoping to see a neat brown head appear. Oh, there he is. No, he’s gone.
Suddenly a great blue heron leaps out of the reeds and soars over the river. We meet him again and again as we paddle around each turn. He is always standing on a muskrat house—and each time we glide a little closer before he jumps into the sky. I wish he could trust us enough to stay—to have a conversation. And then I realize that this is what we’re having.
Looking south toward the horizon after 9 pm this month, there is an unmistakable single bright white star: Fomalhaut. Fomalhaut marks the mouth of the constellation of the southern fish. And it’s also the guide to what’s known as the ‘watery region” of the sky, because there are several other water-related constellations here, like the starry whale and the waterman.
This grouping of water-related constellations is prominent every year in November, and lends itself to an interesting bit of history that unfolded under these stars one Autumn nearly 200 years ago.