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The Mast-Head: A Call in the Dark

Wed, 01/19/2022 - 16:03

At quarter to five this morning, I heard a loon’s call come over the dunes. The air was still for the moment under a nearly full moon. From the driveway, where I had gone to get dog food out of my car, I waited for the call to come again, looking up at what I assumed was the planet Mars at the top of the eastern sky.

Birds’ cries are full of mystery. Why this particular loon felt the urge to speak out at that particular moment is something it keeps to itself. “Who knows what sad thoughts tiptoe through the mossy glades of his mind,” says a character in a favorite adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland.”

I was struck this week by an observation in Chris Gangemi’s “On the Wing” column about people who light their landscapes. “I don’t think we need science to tell us that there are no shades to pull on a tree,” he wrote, thinking about screech owls and how the night sky is not as dark as it used to be. People can spend their money on whatever they please, I guess, and a lot of people have a lot of it these days.

I consider myself fortunate to still live in a dark place, the narrow, mostly flat stretch that connects the highlands at Devon to Hither Hills. It is about a mile’s walk as the loon flies from the bay to the ocean, remarkably now over parkland once I step out of my driveway, with the exception being two roads to cross and the Long Island Rail Road tracks. There is light in the sky to the west, an orange haze coming from the direction of Amagansett. But that is about it, and I am pleased that the loon has decided to share this night with me.

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