Monday, April 13, 2009

Quiet Country Living is a bit of an oxymoron. There are those man-made sounds that can be found within and without any city limits – traffic, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, hedge trimmers, construction… and then a few other man-made sounds more unique to the country – living in close proximity to a lake, we can hear boats motoring along all summer, and snowmobiles all winter. But what surprises me the most are the sounds of nature herself. When I walk outside on any given morning, I am nearly overwhelmed by the country chorus. Morning doves greet me with their plaintive cry, overlaid by the songs of the cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, chickadees, nuthatches, twittering red squirrels and drumming woodpeckers. If I wander down closer to the lake, the sounds intensify – song sparrows trill along the lakeshore, in between the territories of red-winged blackbirds. Seagulls cry overhead, interrupted by the loud honking of Canada Geese. Each new sound intrigues and delights me. If only I spoke the language of the birds, I would know in an instant the news of the day without ever opening a paper or switching on a TV. I stand this morning at the edge of the lake, who seems to be sleeping herself, barely lapping the sandy shore at my feet. I can see two birds far out in the water. They are too small for geese, but they are too far away to tell what kind of ducks they might be. I turn to gaze down the shore, and one of the ducks begins to flap its wings and raise its body out of the water. Something instinctually tells me this is no duck – I turn back to watch and am greeted by the sweetest sound of all – that of a loon trilling. I am instantly transported to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a popular nesting ground for these magical birds, and the last place I have seen them or heard them cry. Are these two on their way up there? Is this small lake a rest stop on the highway of Loon migration?
Click here for a video to hear the loons calling. Alas, not speaking their language, I will never know, but their sweet song that fills me will carry me home and plant thoughts of the wilderness inside me again. Already I am planning my next escape – will I go alone, with my kayak? Or tandem, maybe with my daughter? The possibilities, like the chains of wilderness lakes themselves, are endless.

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