The laugh of the deeply insane

It was the later part of July and we four were hiking at Little Wilson Falls near Moosehead Lake in Piscataquis County, Maine, the least populated county in the state of Maine. We were on a woodland path, part of the Adirondack Trail with a stream that cascaded into a series of small waterfalls and pooled together to become part of Big Wilson Stream. It was midday and looked like we were in the middle of nowhere at the end of the earth. It was quiet, serene and peaceful.

The next day we motored past Deer Island and Sugar Island and past Big Moose Mountain. Big Moose Mountain located at Moosehead Lake, the largest lake in the northeast United States. Life was good.

After hiking and motoring around the lake, we were back at our home base in the early evening hours. It was quiet and dark and very still. We stood on a dock and looked up at the stars and were entertained by the sounds of the loons. I couldn’t see them but could hear them chirping away to each other. Whether one was marking his territory or trying to scare away unwanted intruders, one would not know. One thing was certain: the sound made was like a crazy laugh. Once heard, it is easy to see why naturalists consider their chirps like a laugh. One can easily understand the phrase “cray as a loon”. The sound made by the loons has been described as “the laugh of the deeply insane”. (If you’d like to learn more, read The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Sign. by Tristan Gooley).

Common loons are famous for their eerie, beautiful calls. Among these are the tremolo, a wavering call given when a loon is alarmed or to announce its presence at a lake. The yodel is the male loon’s territorial claim. And each male has its own signature yodel. If a male moves to a different territory, he will change his yodel. The wail is the hunting call that loons give back and forth to figure out each other’s location. Hoots are soft, short calls given to keep in contact with each other. You can hear the wail of a loon at at the Bird Academy of Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Loons also tremolo when they fly from lake to lake or in circles above a lake. Their necks stick straight out and feet trail behind them. They can be very vocally active with nocturnal choruses. Loons are monogamous and pair bonds typically last about five years. If one year, one of the males doesn’t return, the other will quickly pair up with another male. It is the male who defines his territory by yodeling. Courtship consists of swimming in circles and synchronous dives. If nesting is successful, loon chicks can be seen going for a ride around the lake on a parent’s back.

The universe works in the most unusual ways.

About two week after enjoying the quiet and sounds of Moosehead Lake, where all was good, one Friday morning I was in the neighboring town of Medway in Massachusetts. Somehow I fell down, fractured my skull. “911” was called and I was transported by ambulance to the ER of a major Boston hospital for diagnosis and treatment. Thus began the beginning of a lengthy rehabilitation and recovery.

Again, I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere …. but this time, instead of feeling relaxed and rested, I felt alone, in physical pain and distressed. I suffered a serious medical emergency. Fortunately, I received medical attention in a timely manner and while I wouldn’t say life is good (right now0, I am fortunate to have received superb medical attention, and life is getting good again.

Published by Richard Halpern

Retired (but busy) after a lengthy career in business marketing, communications and research. Worked at four start-ups and one turnaround. Now volunteer doing prospect research for a climate activity and social advocacy non profit, amongst other things.

5 thoughts on “The laugh of the deeply insane

  1. Richard,

    It’s wonderful to see your post again. Your description of the joys of nature were beautiful; the counterpoint of your accident shows the insane workings of the universe.

    You survived and are getting better every day is evidence that there is some unknown order to the universe.

    I’m grateful to be able to see you getting better and better.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. I started the post immediately after being up at Moosehead Lake with cousins. I just needed a transition point (the part about how the universe works) to tie it together. Thank you for your readership and support.

    Liked by 1 person

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