Loons

In the mountains where I live, the call of the loons rises off the lake through the darkness. It’s a haunting sound. There’s a wildness to it, an ancient, haunting trill that’s part honor song and part warning all at the same time. When you hear it, it renders everything else mute and silent as the dark itself.

            It’s become out favorite sound. In the long dwindling days of late summer, it means that the icy edge of winter is about to coat the breeze. In all times it’s a reminder that the land retains its dominance over everything.

            Once, when I had just rejoined my people, I stood on a northern beach with my uncle Archie. Arch had been a bushman all his life. He’d worked theWinnipeg Riveras a fishing guide, hunting guide and trapper.

            It was mid summer and the sky was clear and there were a million stars. We watched meteors. He told me stories about the constellations. Then we heard a loon call. It wobbled out of the darkness and died out in echoes across the water. There was a long silence that I could feel and then the call came again.

            Then my uncle cupped his hands and blew into them and mimicked the call. It was awesome to hear. I’d never heard anyone do a pitch perfect loon call before and in a few seconds, the loon responded from across the water. He cupped his hands again and blew another series of trills and dips, a harder, more desperate sound it seemed to me.

            They called back and forth and the loon drew closer to us. You could hear it. I waited to see if he could call it right tot the beach but after a long series of calls back and forth he stopped and put hands in his pockets.

            I asked him why he’d stopped. The loon is about order in life, he said. He calls to remind us that we need to look around us, at the air, the land, the water, everything alive around us and bring ourselves into the natural order of things. It’s how we learn harmony.

            Harmony is a feeling, he said. You learn to exist on it when you live a good way. There’s no need to see the teacher. We only really need to feel the teaching. I’ve never forgotten that.

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About Richard Wagamese

I am a published author with 13 titles published by major Canadian publishers. I am a First Nations person from the Ojibway Nation in Northwestern, Ontario, Canada. As a professional writer since 1979 I have written for newspaper, radio television, magazines and book publishing. I love the culture of books and the people who populate it. 2012 recipient of the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Media & Communications. View all posts by Richard Wagamese

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