My Week with Loons

My social media feeds today include images of people winding their way down the 400, Ontario’s cottage country parking lot. My wife and I travelled down it on Saturday without a hitch, before folk began their trek back to Toronto after the long-weekend in Algonquin and environs.

We spent just shy of a week in Ontario’s near north heaven: three days with dear friends at their family cottage and then three days of canoe camping. The former was simply a joy, and the latter a marvel. Summer is certainly the time to set aside some projects in order to rejuvenate the soul and see again the wonder of God’s creation.

We canoe camped on three different lakes (Raven, Linda, and Owl), and were entertained at each by loons. Canadians love loons so much that we have put them on our one-dollar coin. But to see a loon and to hear a loon are two different things. I learned, many years ago, how to make a loon call but it really seems to hold no truck with loons. The real thing, or things, is a marvel with their varying calls with meanings that I can only guess at. I recently learned that smaller lakes usually host only one pair of loons. Raven and Owl were quite small, while Linda was a bit larger. When we would paddle about on all three lakes, they would often be in our vicinity. Every now and then one would dive down, and re-appear a few minutes later: popping up out of the water a dozen metres or so from the canoe. We were utterly transfixed by them.

I also learned recently, that loons eat some small rocks along with their diet of small fish, frogs, salamanders and other aquatic foodstuff. The rocks apparently help digestion, breaking down exoskeletons of certain dishes. I’m fairly certain that much could be done with this, metaphor-wise, but I think I want to sit with this for a bit. I do know, however, that the seeing and hearing of loons piqued my interest in them anew, and my fascination with the wonders of creation.

Luther was something of a creation theologian, speaking of the divine converse between nature and its Creator. In his estimation, we are not the sole inheritors of God’s interest, a point too easily forgotten in too many iterations of Christianity, and perhaps other religious traditions afflicted with modern obsessions with the self. But the simple loon reminded me again that the community of well-being that God imagines is so much bigger than me and mine. It includes all of creation, which functions as so much more than a stage for the divine drama. The loon and the lake, as much as the human enjoying them, are players in God’s playbook, and we ignore what my Indigenous friends call “all of my relations” at our loss and peril both.

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6 thoughts on “My Week with Loons

  1. love, love, love this post, Allen. “We are not the sole inheritors of God’s interest.” Amen. Perhaps, hearing more about that kind of point of view will help both us and the planet. Thank you.

  2. shoreacres says:

    It’s a sign of our times that, when I read your title (“My Week With Loons”), my first thought was that you had visited Washington, D.C. It’s a political “loony bin” for sure.

    I’ve seen exactly one loon in my life. For some reason, it ended up in our area, and was the cause of great excitement among the birders. I’ve never heard one in the wild, though. A friend who grew up in Minnesota and who visits there every year says there’s nothing like their call. Her favorite thing to do when she visits is sit by the lake and listen to them.

    As for the stone-eating, you might be interested in this. The loon’s diet sounds as though the rationale might apply to them,t oo.

    As to your larger point, it’s interesting that both Luther and the Wesleys were so attuned to the natural world. The Church in general takes so much criticism for not being concerned with issues of conservation, ecological balance, and so on that it might be worth reminding ourselves and others that it’s not always been so.

  3. agjorgenson says:

    Ha. I think I will pass on discussing Washington for the time being. Very interesting bit about the falcon, though! My father in law always says we really need to eat a pound of dirt a year, some of which will most certainly be fine rocks! It is good to know we can be in good company on this front.

    Thanks for pointing out Wesley as creation-friendly. I’m not altogether surprised. I think pre-moderns just lived so much closer to creation, the land, etc that they were bound to be more appreciative. I always find it to be so engaging when I get away from the office and feel again the wind on cheek and spring of the ground. It sort of re-orients me, in a very life-giving way. I just don’t know why we so easily take a pass on doing what is renewing, and instead settle for more work, or television, etc.

    As for sound, I think the cardinals in my back yard earn a near second to loons for favourites for me.

  4. Lisette Dupuis says:

    A beautiful post. Thank you!

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