George Adams

It was early afternoon with partial clouds and a stiff surf, both ideal conditions for searching out a nesting loon known to be secluded in the outlet marsh of a medium size lake near Rangeley, Maine. Little did my partner and I know a loon would depart the nest the next day, taking along two healthy and furry chicks, the result of some four weeks of incubation, sitting only inches above a water level that could rise and threaten.

We moved casually as the shoreline narrowed at the lake’s outlet end, an ideal place for loon nesting away from open water with assess to a quieter waterway. Cautiously peeping, we slowly proceeded and then there she was, patiently nestled among the tall grass on a bed of softness, large and appealing. Immediately she was amply aware of our presence. This keepsake of beauty was openingly disturbed, displaying an open beak of anger and a sternness that was almost frightening. And yet her beauty was absolute and astounding. Most obvious was her panned-out body, a spreading of largeness that displayed a hugh girth, almost hidden from view when water bound.

She was positioned in offering to us her age-old markings, as if in defiance to predators of all types. Continuous white stripes flowed like water along her body while merging with a solid white under body, a work of art tracing over millions of years of hardly altered details. Clearly discernable was her necklace of white vertical stripes, all against a black body of a moonless night. The beauty converged with wing feathers, white spotted and with the same deep purity. So stunning was she in her adornments and their placement and glaring beauty. As we loitered there, she retained her nesting position, aware of a pending hatch, while anxious of leaving home for the accustomed water life and greater safety. Tomorrow the scene did change, as a family of four becoming a new being, the young in time joining their counterparts in joyful play.

Loons are remembered in many ways, like the first time as a teenager becoming bewildered by the haunting howl in the middle of the night or viewing the water dance of mate selection lasting for minutes. I became a lover of loons at a young age, when I stood on a dock one morning in thick fog looking outward. First coming into view were the proud parents marching along, and then the trailing week-old chicks, carefree and confident. Their assuming look all around was evidence as they viewed the silent land as forever.

Two days later we returned to find the foursome on the water a part of the lake life not far from their nesting spot. In obvious happiness together, the little denizens were always within a few feet of their guardians, anxious to learn of life and enlarge their world. Staying surface bound, they took small nourishments from their parents, while joining an ancient niche that faced few natural predators in returning year after year to a place established and satisfying. An enrichment it is to follow an age-old ritual of intimacy in the presence of great beauty.

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