This is the latest spring on record here in the north. I guess that means that it is also the longest winter. One cheery soul pointed out that it is only seven weeks until the days start getting shorter again. The late spring has messed up the normal timing of events around here. Next weekend is the fishing opener, but the lakes are still covered with thick ice and there were snow flurries today. The girls were wearing snowmobile boots under their prom dresses and trying to figure out what hairstyle would not be ruined by a stocking cap.
The birds have been late in arriving. Birders a few hundred miles south of here have been commenting on the unusual number of robins covering their yards. They are stacked up like planes at O'Hare waiting for the weather to clear so that can resume their flights north. We've seen a few flocks recently, but it wasn't until last week's warmer weather that we saw them in any abundance.
This morning that I heard my favorite sound of the north country. A loon flew over our house calling out as it searched for open water. The only open water around here right now is at the end of Lawrence Lake, where it empties into the Prairie River. Dozens of loons have been gathered there for a couple of weeks waiting, like the rest of us, for the thawing of the ice.
|Loon with baby.|
They are completely at home in the water. They can quickly dive under the surface or slowly sink like a submarine. Once underwater, they can dive up to 200 feet in search of fish and can stay under for an amazing length of time. I have timed them staying under water for almost two minutes. To watch them swim under your canoe is an amazing experience. Their speed is incredible.
(I found a video of something similar). "What are those, dad?" I remember asking. He chuckled, "Did you ever hear the expression 'Crazy as a loon?' Now you know where it comes from. Those are loons." I fell asleep that night listening to their calls echo across the lake.
But they don't just laugh. On misty foggy days when the cedars are dripping constantly and the smell of the moist forest floor fills the air, the wail of the loon can be heard. It is a lonely prehistoric sound entirely fitting the scene. Like a distant foghorn the loon calls looking for its mate. In the distance the reply will be heard. It is unmistakably the sound of the border country.
Over the last fourteen years we have been fortunate to live on Snaptail Lake. This northern Minnesota lake is home to a pair of loons that we watch all summer long. We see them swim past every morning and listen to their calls as we climb into bed at night. What the call of the meadowlark is to the Great Plains, the sound of the loon is to the North Country. It is a symbol. When I lived in the city it was an invitation to a simpler life. It has become the sound of home.
And I will miss it.