“In your head you know it will be a hot day but in your heart all you know is that the air is fresh and the day new and unspoiled.”
By Mitch Mode
Time comes when July night sky lowers as if burdened by the heat and humidity. Heat is pervasive like a cloud or low lying smoke. You can’t avoid the heat any more than you can find shelter from smoke and at times you wonder how something so ephemeral can carry such weight. The humidity tops it all off, a heavy overcoat and winter hat at a time when the heat rises to summer.
West sky goes to color of rose; tree leaf and branch hold statue-still; night comes in from dark horizon to the east and overreaches the arch of sky; takes it all. On the good nights there is summer quiet; on others percussion of fireworks rattles the evening.
There are not many good things to be said of deaf dogs, only one that I can think of: They no longer go to deep anxiety in the loud sounds of July. Riika lost her hearing two summers ago in a sudden slide that left her puzzled and sad.
I saw it with Thor in the wonder days of autumn when in the thick cover of grouse cover he would show confusion and be unable to locate the sound of whistle or voice.
But neither one of them respond now to the volleys of fireworks that fill many early July nights; they cannot hear them enough to be bothered. Still, I hear the cacophony of explosions in the night and find it difficult to be neutral about it all. In times of some discouragement when the world news brings war and terror into the house I wonder what it would be like if the fireworks were gunfire and what it would be like to live under those night skies. At other times is simply annoys me for the fracturing of a quiet summer night. My dogs may be at peace but I am not.
Hot summer days and heavy nights of July can be best countered by early mornings when the world is slow and the air cool. Heat will come later like a rising tide but at daybreak this is unimportant. In your head you know it will be a hot day but in your heart all you know is that the air is fresh and the day new and unspoiled. Early morning is the time for your heart. Early morning; that is the time to get away from it all. There are no fireworks at dawn.
I paddle the kayak on calm water after sunrise. There are times when I just get caught up in the paddling; the smooth glide of boat on water.
There are loons, a pair with a chick. Two weeks ago; two chicks. Then one gone to mystery and darkness and never to return. And in that a sense of loss. Now, two adults; one young bird.
On this morning the adult birds are separated by distance and at first I miss the one with the chick. I see only the one without the chick. I have a sick feeling that the second chick has also been lost and for that the morning turns for me and a sadness comes as if a cloud on the sunny day.
I paddle the far shore but the apparent loss of the chick weighs on me and I turn for the landing. I am nearly there when I see the second adult and with it the chick I thought had perished. My spirits lift!
I float with the birds and take a series of photos; parent and young bird. Together.
All is right in their world.
Until it isn’t. Until something happens, something that I cannot see.
The adult is suddenly very uneasy, head lifted high, neck seemingly long and serpentine. I have seen that once before when another loon, an interloper, came to the lake to fight the male for territory. I look to the sky, expecting to see another loon but all I see is scattered cloud. Then the adult bird goes low to the water, head extended, trying to hide but hide from what, I cannot tell.
But something is wrong even if I do not know what.
The adult and chick both dive. Moments pass. The adult surfaces a short distance away. I wait for the chick. But the chick does not come to surface. Ever. Something has taken it, turtle or pike or darkness. I will never know.
I watch as both adults look for the chick, diving repeatedly or swimming on the surface, head underwater, looking. I watch for 15 minutes as the adults seem more desperate, looking everywhere they can.
Then I leave them. I leave them to their isolation and despair. I leave them for the heat of a July day and the weariness that can bring. I leave them for two old dogs that can no longer hear the fireworks that split the peacefulness of the night when all should be right in the world and a loon call a better sound for a summer night.
An assortment of outdoor products is available at Mel’s Trading Post, downtown Rhinelander. Call 715-362-5800. To comment on this story, visit StarJournalNow.com.