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On Ninevah

On Ninevah First light barely rolls up the back of Saltash Mountain. Grainy sand scratches against the plastic hull of the blue boat I haul from under pine-cover, and drag across the beach toward the lightly lapping water’s edge. Embarking, almost quiet, the kayak tilts, sending a little flap and ripple out into the cool clear lake. The limp wave fades after a mere foot or two, and so, won’t bespoil the portent of a rare, hushed sunrise peeking out magenta from behind the far-off hill as a short summer’s starry night comes to an end. Stealth depends on silence on the approach to the far side of the small wooded island. The pristine landing spot two mated loons found that they liked, staked out as theirs, and settled into that summer and each since, six years ago. Now known, they lure a respectful bird watcher or local photo taker to our almost secret place. But not today; slinking low in the boat, hunkered down within a layer of thin fog, hovering on the still water, out of sight, I drift toward the far side of their island, this quiet morning on Ninevah, lying alone here with the loons. Blood red-eyed, brilliantly marked out; sleek head of iridescent ebony, plump water droplets roll off the bird’s back, tuxedoed in bright snow-white and finely etched black tweed. Sudden, the sound of a mournful yodel; organic, amplified as if blown through a chamber of spruce and maple-wood. “Kee-a-ree, Kee-a-ree,” echoes across the lake, up and around the hills. Then a wailing laugh; “oo-AH-ho, oo-AH-ho,” Then a deeply seated moan; a tremolo sounding of howling owls and crying prairie dogs. Soon after breakfast our Eliza, feisty toddler, will be spending her first day at play on our neat little beach. At first sighting of the lake, fearlessly she’ll crawl headlong toward the water’s edge with wide-eyed innocence. Leaving behind an imprint; a trail a newly hatched sea turtle makes in its wake as it flails urgently to reach the foamy sea, then floats and then swims free. We’ll watch her gleefully squeeze lake water in her hands. Share in her delight as she sticks a little twig upright into the sand. As the tall pines shield our beach from the late afternoon sun, I drag the kayak back and begin to arrange beach chairs and we bundle up the chilled children in bath towels. We’ll put our stuff in burlap bags and turn to take the walk back on the gravel road marked Overlook Lane. Scooting under the stretched heavy linked chain secured around two trees, with small sign hung between, reading: PRIVATE NO ENTRY The loons know too, they’ll be leaving the lake soon for their more temperate winter habitat, until perhaps late May or June. Although still August, the few neighbors staying here through winter will begin stacking firewood against walls and caulking around old windows. Soon, crimson leaves will drop from trees, and scrape breeze-blown down the road. Then a quieting white blanket will fall, covering all. Belying the peril of that north wind howling like a loon, blowing daggers off of Ninevah in winter. A widow living near the eastern shore in a cottage called “Lakeside” was found frozen under a half-foot of snow by her son, one morning a few years ago. Her head had hit on an icy path. It’s said he’d warned her not to go after the cat if it scooted out back in a storm. That squall then passed. A full, bright-white moon ensued. A calico’s shadow, cast crisp on glistening ground as it meowed, scratching at the kitchen’s door.

Copyright © | Year Posted 2020

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