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CALLING OF THE LOONS
3+

Morning’s stillness was broken by the strange, laughing call of a loon. Colin punched his granddad on the shoulder, their two-man tent getting warm from an early burst of sun.

“Time to get up,” Colin whispered. “Listen. Listen.”

His granddad quickly dressed and joined his grandson outside. He passed his binoculars to Colin. The boy was nervous as he focused on his target.

The dark outline of a loon showed bright and clear, its head and neck blackish with narrow patches of white on its throat. Granddad said loons were usually in pairs. And they picked out their own special lake to raise a family.

It was not pleasant at home and Granddad felt a little camping weekend would be good for Colin. The boy’s eyes blurred as he looked through the binoculars. If only his parents were here to see this.

“Look Colin. They’re diving for some small fish for breakfast.”

Colin learned they could stay underwater a long time and then surface much further away. He returned the binoculars to his granddad.

“How about some breakfast?” granddad asked.

Colin’s thoughts were mixed as he watched granddad work on their campfire.

“Okay, I guess,” he answered sadly. He helped a little, then a lot — and the dark cloud finally left his thoughts. “Granddad, do loons ever fight?” he asked.

“I’m not sure. If they don’t, it’s because they realize there is so much space to share.”

Colin wished humans could be like that.

“It’s not possible for a perfect world,” Granddad’s voice interrupted.

“Well it’s not fair. We should be working together just like the loons!” Colin shouted.

He remembered his granddad telling him loons usually produce two eggs. Also when they traveled on the water each parent looked after one of the young loons—to protect and care for them.

After breakfast, the boy and his granddad prepared for a canoe trip. They carried, then placed the craft in two feet of water and got in. Colin’s paddle thumped loudly on the thwart.

“Did I scare away the loons, Granddad?”

“Not really, Colin. They’re resting somewhere right now. We’ll see them again tonight.”

The day passed swiftly as they paddled and fished from one inlet to another. During that time, they spotted chipmunks, a porcupine, deer and many varieties of birds. The chickadee was Colin’s favorite, and Its piping call seemed to say – “This is my land!”

Catching two nice sized fish meant a delicious supper of lake trout and beans. “I want tonight to be just perfect,” granddad said. “Good food and good camping with my grandson.”

“With lots of love,” Colin added. “And no fighting,” his lips whispered. Colin thought about his mother and father. If only he could give them a hug right now.

Maybe he should say the things he felt inside — about how kind Granddad is and how the loons send a thrill up and down his back. Maybe he should do a little more at home, like drying the dishes. Or even help Dad with the firewood.

When Dad got grouchy, Colin would now try not to growl back. Or slam his bedroom door when he was upset. He wanted everyone to give each other another chance. They should be like the loons. They could work it out.

“Colin?”

“Yes?”

“Almost time.”

“Okay.”

They tidied up the campsite for their last evening in the woods. Then they dressed in warm clothes, put mosquito repellant on and walked quietly to the edge of the lake.

As they sat together on a log, Colin leaned against Granddad’s shoulder. The older man’s arm circled his precious grandson. Then a trickle of sound crept across the water. The wind’s breath gathered in a growing symphony and carried it to the man and boy waiting eagerly.

They were not disappointed. Loons called one to another in playful chords, sensing they had a captive audience. Sounds of peace, and melodic beauty crisscrossed the lake.

And they were absorbed into a little boy’s heart. His own song was one of love for his family. Like the loons, he would bring back a message of a family working together.

Colin placed his arm around his granddad’s shoulder. He squeezed really hard.

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© Richard & Esther Provencher 2007

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