The morning's stillness was broken by the strange, laughing call of a loon. Colin touched his grandfather lightly on the shoulder. Their two-man tent was getting warm from the early burst of sun.
"Time to get up." Colin spoke in a whisper, "Listen. Listen. It's them again!"
Granddad quickly got dressed and joined his grandson outside. He had his binoculars and passed them to Colin. Colin was nervous as he focused on his target.
The dark outline of the loon showed bright and clear, its head and neck was blackish with narrow patches of white on the throat. Granddad said that loons were usually in pairs. And they picked out their own favorite lake.
It was not pleasant at home and Granddad felt that a little camping weekend would be good for Colin. Colin's eyes blurred as he looked through the binoculars. If only his parents could be here to see this.
"Look Colin! They're diving for some small fish for breakfast."
Colin knew they could stay underwater for a long time and then surface much further away. He turned and gave the binoculars back to his grandfather.
"How about breakfast?" his grandfather asked.
Colin's thoughts were mixed up as he watched his grandfather work on the campfire. "Okay, I guess," he said sadly. He helped a little, then a lot -- and the dark cloud finally left his thoughts.
"Granddad, do loons ever fight?" he asked.
"I don't know. If they don't, I'm sure it's because they realize there is so much space to share."
Colin wished humans could be like that.
"It's not possible for a perfect world," Granddad's voice interrupted.
"Well it's not fair. We should be working together just like the loons!" Colin almost shouted.
He remembered his grandfather telling him that loons produced two eggs. And when they traveled on the water each parent looked after one of the young loons---to protect and care for them.
After breakfast, the boy and his grandfather prepared for a little canoe trip. They carried, and then pushed the canoe into two feet of water and got in. Colin's paddle thumped loudly on the thwart.
"Did I scare away the loons, Granddad?"
"They're resting somewhere right now, Colin. But we'll see them again tonight."
The day passed swiftly as the canoe moved from one inlet to another. During that time, they saw chipmunks, a porcupine, a deer and many kinds of birds. The chickadee was Colin's favorite bird. Its piping call seemed to say "This is my land!" And Colin knew he would help to protect it.
Supper was a delicious meal of steak and beans.
"I want tonight to be just perfect," his grandfather said. "Good food and good camping with my grandson."
"With lots of love," Colin added. "And no fighting," his lips whispered.
Colin thought about his mother and father. Maybe he should say the things he felt inside -- about how kind Granddad is and how the loons send a thrill up and down his back.
Maybe he should do a little more at home, like the dishes. And even help Dad with the firewood. When Dad got grouchy, Colin would try not to growl back. Or slam his bedroom door when he was upset.
Colin wanted everyone to give each other another chance. They could be like the loons. They could work it out.
And they both got their sleeping bags ready. Then they dressed in warm clothes, put mosquito repellant on and walked quietly to the edge of the lake. They sat together on the log. Colin leaned on Granddad's shoulder. Granddad's arm circled his precious grandson.
A trickle of sound crept across the water. The wind laid its breath upon the growing symphony and carried it to the man and boy waiting eagerly. They were not disappointed.
The loons called one to another in playful chords. It was as if they knew they had an audience.
Sounds of peace and caring and a melodic beauty crisscrossed the lake. And they were absorbed into a little boy's heart. His own song was one of love for his family. Like the loons, he would bring back a message of a family working together.
He put his arm around his grandfather's shoulder.
Colin squeezed really hard.
* * *
1994-2009 Richard L. Provencher
All Rights Reserved
First Published Sept 1996
Kids World Magazine, Toronto, Ontario
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