Saturday, August 1, 2015

Lake of the Lingering Summer Night: the Garden of the Loons

Once more to the Lake of the Loons:
[photo by Dave Eichorn]
After the long woodsy walk to some other lake
(their number legion here)
where we drove past campsites, late July full house in the Adirondacks,
the nation's largest national park
chocked full of old hunting lodges called 'camps'
where people with a taste for stylish roughing,
where when you get away from 'it all,' we still take a lot with us
power, computers, land lines, facilities
the roughest part is dealing with the regs
when you want to dig a new well, or replace a dock
or add on to your camp,
but the loons are not complaining,
laughing screaming crying communicating,
hard to say what they're doing,
but not complaining
Nor are the people, really,
Not only the loons coming back, 
the 'Daks are chock full of creatures, deer
crop even your pine trees in winter
daylilies never get to the lily part
if the deer get there first
One night (Dave told us) a bobcat chased a deer
in full career past his house
neither beast taking note of the householder
frozen at his kitchen door,
the dogs sleeping heavily within
The deer splashed away in Seventh Lake

Walking the dog 'round midnight,
in the deep dark like every other night,
Gwen and two friends from the 'burbs interrupted a growl
in the dark from a ledge where, presumably, a predatory cat
prepared to leap down upon a victim, a rumble in the brush
The friends no longer take the midnight walk
Gwen plays word games with her son instead,
each leashing a (fittingly for the Adirondacks) mountain dog

But cats are rare, bear seen more often in the region's
prevalent wood carvings, the local totem, symbol of the wilderness,
land of fowl and fish, salmon and trout in the old days,
ice fishers still busy in the region's long winter months
ducks, geese, mergansers, other water fowl patrolling the surface
after the ice breaks, as the water rushes up, released from the long sleep
of dormancy, the grass comes back
drinking in all that snow-stored water
The rains continue all summer long,
mountain-climate, some rain event possibility seemingly in every forecast,
the fronts rise over the peaks, a brief shower
or a deep monsoon-like statement,
or maybe just some high-cloud ingress ensues, passes, fades,
ushers in a new day's excitement

But the spirit of the place is the loon,
the madmen of the deep nights, the cool summer nights,
the nights when a fire is needed to stay outdoors
and hope someone can see a star to steer by
the loon calls, a racket ricochets across the sheets of water,
bent back by the forest wall, shared with the sky,
with the camps that ring the lake, with hard-won stars in their
own screaming silence, white distant forever beyond our hearing,
the loons however answer one another,
speaking the ancient language, strident, maniacal, enduring,
celebratory, beseeching, who knows what else,
the language of cold water, the cold flesh of a fishy diet,
of wind, and waves, and daylong progresses over Seventh Lake,
and then beyond, in coves, and islands, in quiet bays,
chicks riding on a parent's back,
older chicks the color of winter slippers,
growing into the beauty of some star-lit avatar
sent from another constellation, the fierce silver light
whitening the breaks in the black of the loon's broad back,
dressed in some stylish evening wear from an artist's ball
in another century,
going to the formal, the prince's ball, Cinderella hopping through the woods,
and screaming out the news
the biggest, longest, loudest, craziest laugh in the pure mountain night.