The Loon’s Calling

For airport reasons my husband and my two daughters woke up shortly before 4:00 a.m. leaving me with two options.

1-     Pretending that I didn’t hear the iPhone’s repetitive ring tone

2-     Being a good team member and pulling myself up

Did I really have two options?

It was still pitch-dark when the car drove away. But while I sipped my first cup of tea, pearly light filtered through the windows. Mist, reminding me of California winter fog, rose from the lake. It was too early for any fisherman and the boats, moored at the docks, swayed gently.

Unlike sunup in California, which often takes me by surprise, here in Maine, the passage from night to day is slower and more fragile. It is almost impossible to know if it will be a sunny or a gloomy day until the last seconds of night have folded up.

I stepped to the dock and sat down. Rocked by the gentle waves lapping against the boat I waited for the first ray of sun. I was so intent that I wasn’t expecting the loon.

Its melancholic call broke through the quietness. I shivered, looking around and searching for the familiar shape of the bird.

“Have you seen the loon and its baby?” asked my neighbor last night.

I hadn’t.

“Look for them,” he said. “They are truly beautiful. The little one rides on his mom’s back.”

I heard that our lake, relatively small in comparison to so many larger bodies of waters in Maine, is probably home to only a pair of loons. Male and female build their nest together and incubate together, but the male is the one who picks the location and fights fiercely for its territory. Two eggs are laid in May and June, sometimes a little later. And yes, the chick often rides his parent’s back during the first two weeks, for protection and comfort.

The call, so unlike other birds’, once more echoed, and I scanned the silky surface of the lake, unable to spot the loon although I was under the impression that its moaning sound was meant for me.

I dipped my feet in the cool water, waking a few small fish in the process. When I got cold, I stood up, stretching to the sun, now popping behind the pine trees.

And I saw them. The loon and its baby.

loon

 

So close I could have touched them if I had been canoeing.

So still that they could have been decoys.

So silent that I wondered if another loon had been calling earlier.

I held my breath and waited for them to make the first move.

Eventually they did. The mom or dad – they both take care of their chicks – slithered away, the baby chick riding its back, like a human baby clutching his mother or father.

I followed them until my eyes ached and I blinked.

Gone.

 

It is now 8:00 a.m. A red canoe glides at the feet of our cabin. A middle-aged man paddles his way to the creek. A bass jumps out of the water, his glistening body a perfect arch.

The phone rings. My husband is on his way from the airport with a new load of passengers ready to enjoy the lake. I brew a pot of fresh coffee. A motorboat roars in the distance. The lake has woken up.

And the loon is silent.

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  1. […] our arrival, a couple of weeks ago, I’ve heard the strange call of the loon, either early morning or at night, and spotted one, staying at a safe distance from the fishing […]

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