It's dark. The sun has shown the last of itself for the day and recedes behind a silhouette of darkened evergreens and granite. A whip-poor-will across the bay sings its lonely lullaby as the sun pulls a heavy, black blanket over the land and water as it rests its head for the night. The darkness is enveloping when you are miles from civilization. There is no street light to creep in through the cabin window, no light pollution to trickle over the treetops of the island and no neighbors with a hair trigger motion light that starts with every gnat that flies by. The only light that shines here at this time of night is the light of the moon and the stars and an old, Coleman kerosene lantern.
In my youth, the lantern was lit, in ritual and necessity, every night we were at the cabin. My father's work-hardened hands would fill the preheat cup and light it with a long match, with luck, before it became too dark to see. The small blue flame was left to wait for a few moments while it warmed the kerosene. The tiny, flickering, harbinger would then beckon to the depths of the kerosene well and, with help, usher in a darkness destroying, yellow-orange torch. The lantern would push the shadows back to the corners of the room and stave off the blackness fighting to spill back over every surface. There, over our days catch laying in the sink and on the filleting board, the lantern would hum softly and keep guard over my family. My father would teach his children the anatomy of the fish we caught, how to properly sharpen a knife, and the importance of selective harvest to keep a fishery in balance. The number of fish in the sink would slowly diminish as the number of moths beating on the screen door would exponentially rise; drawn to the lantern as many outdoor loving people are also prone to. Once the fish were packed into the red and white cooler and our nightly card games completed, I would burrow into the army green sleeping bag with its plaid interior, nestle beneath the red tag with white lettering, and fall asleep contented in knowing the Coleman lantern still burning one room away, and the Coleman sleeping bag, would provide a safe passage for me until morning.
A Coleman lantern was all my family truly needed to bring us closer together. I am certain we would have been contented making the four hour journey just to gather around the card table, the lantern in the center, and connect. After a full day of fishing and boating we spent numerous hours gathered around its warmth and light conversing, laughing, and becoming closer as a family. Most lanterns would have probably had the ability to light the four room cabin we vacationed at, but none would have come with the patina that ages on my memory so fondly as that which comes with the Coleman lantern. Furthermore, no lantern would have been as reliable considering the demand we asked of it and the neglect we subjected it to. Every winter it would sit on a Hoosier cabinet in -20º temperatures and every summer it endured temperatures breaking 100º. A lesser lantern would have refused to work over a few seasons of these temperature swings and lack of maintenance, yet the Coleman still endures on, continuing to light the cabin whenever we ask of it.