Loons

The other morning, I woke up early at our cabin to let one of the dogs out. Besides the dog, a pair of loons were awake and calling to one another. Later, during the day, I enjoyed seeing them diving for fish on the lake.

Loons often remind me of my uncle, Maury. He was an unusually kind man but also a troubled one, who struggled with mental health challenges and the lasting impact of profound child abuse. Its a little difficult to know just what his youth was like. My father has not been very helpful in piecing things together, either, as he seems to have coped with the childhood threat of violence by becoming a pathological liar. Regardless, my uncle passed away years ago, and my father already difficult relationship with the truth is complicated by dementia.

Happily, my uncle married a woman who stuck with him through thick and thin. She gave many of my uncle’s possessions to me when he passed. Among these was a painted ceramic loon. When I first received it, I turned the loon over and found a note for my aunt inside. Clearly, my uncle had given the loon to his wife as a gift. The note reads, “To Ruby, with love from a guy that is kind of Looney sometimes — Maury.” The words are both sweet and sort of sad.

My aunt also gave to me, as well as to my father, my uncle’s writings. These offer a bit more insight into his life, as the bulk of these comprise an unpublished poetic autobiography. Many of the poems pertaining to his youth are set at Lake MacDonald, in Glacier National Park. He and my father partly grew up there at a family property. No doubt, both of them saw plenty of loons on the lake in front of the property. I’ve seen many loons there myself.

In his poems, my uncle describes his times at Lake MacDonald as pleasant–as times when he could escape some his parents’ abuse, perhaps enjoying the protection of his grandmother and other relatives. I’m sure, then, that he gave that ceramic loon to his wife in a genuinely loving spirit, recollecting the beauty he might have witnessed during these times and associating it with his marriage.

I have been looking through the poems lately. Some, of course, are heart breaking. They describe the “vulgar” abuse he experienced (this is what his called it, in a penciled edit of a poem). But others describe the beauty and joy found in Glacier. Among these are a couple of fishing poems I share here. I have yet to find a loon poem.

Rainbow Dreamer

I believe:

There’s a pot of gold
To be found
At teh end of a rainbow

And I believe:

There a rainbow trout
To be caught
At the end
Of a fly fishing line.

Fishing Pleasure

I have known
The rush of pleasure
That felt good three times.
It was the feeling
that came with the catching,
the sharing, and the eating
of fresh water trout.

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