Dear loon in the distance,
I’m not blaming you for waking me up in the middle of the night in the middle of the summer in the middle of my life. I deserved to be more tired than I was, what with the long drive Up North from Virginia, a trip I’d never taken, where every sight seen was seen for the first time, and new words appeared on signs, some with four syllables, like Adirondacks, derived from the Mohawk word atiru:taks, meaning “tree eaters.”
No, loon in the distance, it wasn’t you that caused me to wake. That nocturnal stirring was just one more adjustment to being in the middle of my life. My eyes were subdued by the blackness surrounding the cabin, so I took a few minutes to locate myself, not wanting to disturb the pure Adirondack serenity by walking into unfamiliar, wooden edges of rustic furniture.
I’d never been so cold in summer. It was crisp, unlike the sultry summers I was used to. The air snapped when the sun went down, and the intense, deep gloom was new to me, more powerful because of the deep silence. I imagined that animals pulled darkness over their wary shoulders like a blanket while they rested and tended to their safety and restoration. Such idle thoughts as these comforted me as I paused at the cabin window.
Then I heard your haunting, remote cry drift through the cabin’s open window. It seemingly carried its own echo, coming in two distinct notes, a long high one, followed by a more guttural, soulful bellow. The two distinct packets of sound combined over the lake into one long eerie, plaintive wail, making you sound much farther away than you must have been, like the lonesome whistle of a train in the vast countryside. Your resonance shrank the big outside, made it smaller and more intimate, as if you and I were having a heart-to-heart chat. I needed to hear more of your story, to find out your truth. My ears were fully alive under the cover of nightfall, alert to the faint murmur of tiny waves lapping the dock underlying your distinct melody.
Then another voice – fluttery, coquettish, flirty – answered yours. There were two of you! I eavesdropped on your conversation, its instinctual back and forth. Long, mournful overtures and throaty responses evoked both the sorrow of longing and the beauty of belonging. I felt that I’d missed some messages in life, but that in your plaintive refrain were clues to find what I’d been looking for.
The light Adirondack breath of wind carried a whiff of metal, making it sharp, concentrated. Alert to the goose bumps on my arms and legs, I padded back to bed, pulled up the quilt, which had fallen to the floor. I reveled in its cottony, huggable feel. I draped it over my companion’s shoulder, thankful that she brought me here to God’s Country.
Only later did I learn that loons – like the most blessed souls – are monogamous creatures, loyal in love and family, one of the many examples that Nature bestows on fortunate human wanderers,