“What’s wrong with that bird?” one of us asked.
“Is it a baby who doesn’t know how to swim yet?” somebody else said
“I would think a loon would be born born knowing how to swim,” a third person remarked.
We fell silent and watched as the bird fluttered and circled, circled and fluttered.
“Maybe it’s playing.””
But the bird wasn’t playing, as we realized when it abruptly stopped, dropped its head in the water, disappeared from sight and, a minute later, bobbed to the surface, one side up and entirely motionless.
David took a canoe and rowed out to it. The bird was dead. He lifted it on one oar and paddled back to the dock where the rest of us were sitting.
Everyone gazed at it sadly.
“What can have killed it?,” somebody said.
“Leeches,” opined the 8-year-old. “They suck your blood ’til you’re dead!”
“Lead,” said somebody else.
” Lead in the water?”
“No, there’s sometimes lead in the sinkers on people’s fishing lines. When a bird accidentally swallows one…”
So the bird’s playful-seeming dance was actually a death agony.
We took pictures of the bird, as you can see, and as we did so came to realize that it was no loon at all but rather a cormorant like the cormorants who perch on the rocks in our little cove.
David carried him across the street on that same oar to bury him.
Then the rest of us went on about our fun, alive and playing and all heedless of the fact, in the bloom of the late-summer day, that we too – even we – are also poling slowly toward darkness.