(All loon photos courtesy of Peggy Ivimey)
*A Brief Author’s Note: I first drafted “Serenade of the Loon” several years back. I had plans to submit it to Adirondack Life magazine, but lacked the loon photographs I felt I needed to complete it. so I never did.
Peggy Ivimey and I graduated from Saranac Lake High School together. She still lives in the Saranac Lake area, where she is a photographer specializing in loon & eagle photography on Lake Colby and throughout the Tri-Lakes area. I’m sure many of you already know Peggy and her top notch Adirondack bird imagery. When I first saw it, I found her photography’s high quality striking. In my humble opinion, some of the very best work I’ve seen.
Long story short, we recently reconnected via Facebook and decided to collaborate. “Serenade of The Loon” is the result.
Serenade of The Loon
At Home in the Mountains
Alone with My Thoughts
Dancing with Bears
In My Favorite Spot
Mist Cloaking Sunset
By the Light of a Fire
Twinkling Star Ripples
Reflect Zen Dreams Aspired
Howling with Coyotes
Sharing Prayers with the Moon
Nature’s Night Cavalcade
Serenade of the Loon
I love that rare time spent alone, in an Adirondack lean-to, in my favorite spot, on the shore of my favorite lake.
Sitting cloaked in the warm solitude of campfire flames, I find time to reflect. Past adventures, current projects, future plans – dreams that may now never come to pass. Cancer, and its aftermath, is a life altering experience.
I reflect back on those dark days before surgery- telling my wife, “I’m so afraid“. Her response; “I know. I am too.” The hard tears that followed.
Sitting alone in my pickup truck with my then nine year old son RJ, who said, “Dad, I don’t want to adjust to your cancer- I just want it out.”
Keeping my fingers crossed that my sixteen year old daughter Chelsea would pass her driver’s test on the very first try- because she would be at home looking after her brother and sister while Robin and I were in New York for my surgery and we needed her to have her license so she could get them wherever they needed to go.
Sharing, bedside with my daughter Abby, the joy we’d had with her travel softball team that final summer before surgery. I called it our “Magic Season“. It was. We also all thought it might well be my last.
I managed one last day trip into Middle Saranac with family that summer. I remember riding with my brother in the pontoon boat across the lake, shedding a few private tears with myself as I thought, “I may never see this place again.”
Getting in the car to leave for New York and Sloan Kettering, my wife and I both frightened at the prospect of it being a one-way trip.
That was twelve years ago. Doctors performed miracles to keep me alive. Once their work was finished, it was my job to live.
For over a decade post-surgery my wife and I trekked back to Sloan Kettering and Manhattan to see Dr. Wong, my Head & Neck surgeon. On one of our lasts trip I asked him, “So Doc, out of ten like me, at this point how many are still alive?”
His response– “You are it, man. Last man standing. Sole survivor.” Those words have been liberating somehow, realizing I somehow beat the odds. I’m beyond borrowed time now, on my own clock; year twelve, month five, day twenty-two. Still counting.
My Oncologist’s words “It’s time to call hospice. There’s no more we can do.” I still hear their echo. They still bring a tear to my mind’s eye. They still give me chills.
In real life, those words don’t generate cinematic skydiving bucket lists. The truth is much more personal, more concrete, more real. “New shingles on the roof “, “Make financial arrangements,” “Teach daughter to drive,” “Son’s Hunter’s Safety course,” “Share family time,” “Be generous with hugs and I love you,” “Pet the dog,” “One more kiss for my Wife.” I often sit pondering these thoughts as flame turns to ember and I drift to sleep.
Awakening to the damp chill of morning and the sound of waves gently washing the shore, I begin each new day by putting a fresh pot of coffee on my rekindled fire.
I live life differently now. I have a deeper appreciation for “Living Life In The Day I Am In.” With each new morning, I put one more day in my pocket as I silently pray my morning prayer;
“Thank You Lord, For Yesterday, Today, and Each and Every Day of Life- Amen.”
looking forward to making the most of the day I’ve just been given.
The sun’s rays slowly bring a new day’s life to the lake. Once camp coffee percolates, I add it to my prescribed feeding tube mix. “What the doctors don’t know won’t hurt them”, I think, smiling. I sit listening to a red squirrel drop cones to the lean-to’s roof top from one of the pines towering above. Morning meal complete, I douse the remaining fire, pack my gear, and prepare to head home, reluctantly leaving one more night of camp solitude in my wake.
My canoe glides gently across still morning water as I paddle the lake. Mist rises, a passing dragonfly hovers briefly, then darts off to its day. A night spent alone in an Adirondack lean-to is a soul cleansing experience. For anyone seeking peaceful tranquility, I highly recommend it.
Dr Wong and the medical team at Memorial Sloan Kettering hospital performed a miracle. They saved my life. Twelve years post-surgery, I’ve beaten long odds. I’m on my own time now. No more “bucket lists.” It’s simply my job to live.
From somewhere upwind a solitary loon’s echoing wail embraces morning’s mountain air chill. I listen, smiling softly to myself as I continue paddling homeward, contemplating life. A fitting accompaniment.
Serenade of The Loon.
Until Our Trails Cross Again:
Lifelong NYS resident. Raised in Saranac Lake. Cornell graduate(ROTC). Army veteran, Airborne/Ranger qualified, 10th Mtn Div, stints in Honduras and with JTF VI. 3rd degree Black Belt; 3x cancer survivor; published writer with several featured stories in Adirondack Life Magazine. Residing in Watertown NY with wife Robin & our 3 adult children. Loving Life. Living in the Day I am in.
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