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A SANCTUARY OF SONG essay
by Richard L. Provencher
8/16/2008 / Recreation
Across the stillness of water lays a stretching form, almost like a cat about to pounce. From the mainland it draws the attention of any visitor, with its mysterious atmosphere. And my canoe hastens to claim it.
It is really a small island peeking from the surface of Economy Lake, almost like an explosion of rock lined with trees. Tall silhouettes create a border for this private space. This place is just what I need, a respite for the night, something to tease my outdoor spirit.
Unknown to me, this tiny bit of Heaven provides a hidden sanctuary for a variety of birds, eagles and other animals. I will soon discover it also has its own character. The island will provide a full slate of tales, whispered by the wind through many summers. As twilight leans forward, daylight is soon lost in memory.
A hush descends as I J-stroke slowly into the island's domain. My canoe is safely beached, tent soon set up and preparation for the night complete. And then I pay attention to an ancient song
Evening's wind descends with an eerie whistle. Its restless spirit comes quickly from a sweep of clouds, increasing in velocity, as it twists and turns between the trees.
These firs are heavy laden with branches acting as a place of respite for fir and feather. Sheltered enclaves are acceptable to families of wildlife. Windy puffs grow bolder as it pushes into disarray all moveable parts within the tiny island.
Fallen pine needles dance restlessly from one hideout in the earth to another. From their new location nature allows them to take root as they await nourishment from a fresh rainfall. Then a warming sun will soon visit this fertile space, and create new sprouts of life.
Other sounds begin their march under a darkening sky beneath an overhead movement of wings. Branches groan quietly as a feathery weight settles in the security of a red pine. Many have not seen such a magnificent hooting owl. This privilege is one of appreciation.
Nighttime comes silently as a cloaking blanket. And sun's bright glow signals daytime's triumphant farewell. Pink and yellow, even mottled blue mingles within the framework of island and sky. I accept a hint of red as a lingering goodnight kiss.
Night is now a covering of quilted shadows. Trees stand proudly at attention. They're picturesque as statuettes aside the shore. Soon, the island blends within shadows thrust upon the lake. From the mainland it appears to have disappeared. But, a closer look reveals activity now taking place. Nighttime for this acre of serenity is really an awakening of dormancy.
Nearby, waves stir. They move in quiet 'shushes' aside the shore. Cowlicks of white crested crowns herald each surge of water. Their repetitions of movement are patient as stars watching from above. And ripples of froth act as spies within the moonlight.
Now hush, my spirit whispers. There is a sudden halting of sound. All motion upon this collection of rock, tree and soil pauses as a familiar call interrupts the chill in the night air. "AAH-OOH-AAH-OOH-AAH" comes as a cry of release from a loon. His song is one of power and majesty. For many seasons he must have claimed this island as his own. Now his lingering serenade repeats in ascending waves. Each chord is a hurrying step into the brocade of a starry sky.
An eruption of magnificence and delight continues to rise and fall. It enters the sparsely forested area with the air of a royal symphony. Their sounds are from a magical flute and herald the beginning of nighttime activities. I sense movements within the boundaries of this island responding swiftly.
Trees begin to tremble. Limbs crackle from pressing paws and hooves. A successful hunt concludes in the flapping of wings. An agony of alarm is soon heard above the stillness. A scream of pain is muted, fades into silence. Surely an owl has satisfied his hunger. The night, once a mystery to me, returns to its ancient rituals of activity.
Notice bobbing lights blink in quick succession. Fireflies respond from one low brush to another. They are like beacons of answering signals. Their spiral of motion is repeated from numerous locations. They flicker in patterns, creating an atmosphere of friendliness. Clouds above my gaze now meander in lazy swirls. They gather in puffed up bunches as if to overwhelm my tiny island.
Then a path of white manages to reach this tiny island. The moon's flashlight beam carves a direct path from the sky. A moment of silence is absorbed. All activity seems to pause. Feral eyes must be sharing our looking upwards in wonder at the heavens. A beam of enlightenment reaches one small bay within the land.
This bonding began as a gaze of curiosity from above. From there it joins together with lake, rock, trees and earth to create a chain of fellowship. It surely took place when the island reached upward as a blossoming flower from beneath the surface of Economy Lake. Earth and sky became brothers in the happening.
Now my watchfulness is a surge of emotion. The wind increases in velocity. Waves suddenly increase in strength and height. Trees sway in delight. Protesting limbs scrape against each other as an act of kinship and discovery.
Stirring within the island creates a dance of wonder.
Stars shelter the island's 'potpourri' of motion. Their dazzling glory draws warmth from the island. Returning brilliance provides illumination and ecstasy. Their diamond-like sprinkling is a gift. They seem to point from the 'milky way' touching the very core of the island, and my soul. Night rises and falls as each new wonder manifests itself.
Time is measured in the softness of the moss, which provides a velvety covering of calmness. Ferns sweep forward in one last leafy plunge of movement. Each step I take is a discovery of awe within this plot of land. Quietly from the east the blanket of night is slowly raised. Rhythms of movement from fur and feather are slowly silenced. The appearance of morning sun is a signal for sleep.
It is a reminder of the natural change that must take place. The forest, creatures and I, listen. And obey.
* * *
Richard L. Provencher 2003
Richard enjoys writing poems; many of which have been published in Print and Online. He and his wife, Esther are also co-authors of stories and a print novel. They are "born again" Christians and very busy in their church, Abundant Life Victory International, in Bible Hill, Nova Scotia.
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