The rough, rocky road climbs through thick forest to a grassy glade serenaded by frogs. A few wisps of cloud skirt by a full moon as fat and shiny as a silver dollar, backlighting an old plantation windmill. From somewhere in the shadows floats the slow, heartbeat thumping of a conga drum. This must be the place.
"I'm Bone,'' says the percussionist. "Nice to meet you, brother.
''Soon other all-but-invisible forms trickle into this late-night party at Catherineberg, the ruins of a centuries-old sugar mill high atop the mountainous spine of St. John, the emerald jewel of the U.S. Virgin Islands chain. Some bring tom-toms, others beer. We're all awaiting the Pyros of the Caribbean, a local fire-dancing troupe headed by a guy called Fuego. That's it: one name, just like Sting or Bono or, uh, Bone.
And Fuego rolls late. He'd indicated a 9-ish start time, but the Pyros are well into the "ish" phase. So these hilltop celebrants break into a cosmic bull session about phenomena like the green flash and the aurora borealis. A tub-thumping jam starts tentatively and then gathers pulsing, polyrhythmic steam while a warm wind rustles the trees and chases away the clouds to reveal the Big Dipper. The drummers aren't the only islanders in tune with the heavens. Elsewhere on St. John, West Indian farmers are out in their fields, picking vegetables that "swell up" during the lunar event. On the east side, dozens of locals have gathered at Miss Lucy's, a Coral Bay restaurant, for a moonrise beach party complete with a rock band.