Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | July 29, 2008

Glowing Lakes

Camden, Maine. September 27, 2003.

“Look to the shores of the lake,” I whispered to my companion.

From the branches of the pine, we watched the sun shine from the water.

“Come,” she sang, and lifted into the air, opening her beak to taste the direction of the wind. Wings spread, we tilted away from the mountain, eyes focused on the glowing lake.

Herons do not fly from the tops of mountains. We stick to swamps and lowlands, where the fish swim and the air is thick. I was giddy from altitude and, yes, fear.

Wings do not prevent the terror of looking down from the edge of a cliff. I dove and screamed, calling out to my friend, a tiny swallow, “Never again! Never so high!”

“Tsreee!” She spiraled and rose with the currents. Her joy was welcome after our journey, and soon I too opened my beak to let out a long, satisfying cry: not so high and clear as my swallow friend’s, but filled with the same relief.

We had come following the words of another, so old and feeble she could no longer see or even fly, but the dove could speak, and she spoke of a glowing lake. Far, far, the lost ones gather… waters glow and fires cool… seek them, seek them…

No one else would go. My companion implored me, dawn after dawn. “Come, Beken, fly with me!” Until I went.

The air around the mountain was cool and washed with mist. The lake glittered bright as a diamond nestled in the soft green land.

“Why?” My friend Aya demanded. “Why does it glow?”

I had no answer, even as we came close. “I think it swallowed a star,” I offered.

Aya warbled, laughing. “No, a whole nightful of fireflies!”

Once, she had stayed awake into the night to chase fireflies with the bats. She woke me with her shrieks as I slept in my tree over the river. That was the start of our friendship, however strange it seems. I didn’t understand her then, and I still didn’t. But if it weren’t for Aya, I wouldn’t have been coasting over this sparkling lake.

Water. As we came close enough to land, I felt the moisture in my feathers, like home. But I saw no fish beneath the surface, and no running insects or buzzing flies above. What was this lake?

The answer was on shore.

I didn’t know what they were at first, these strange creatures with two legs and fur only on their heads. Aya told me, “Humans!”

I didn’t have time to ask where she learned such a word, because the creatures were jumping around, shouting in calls like crows or parrots. They pointed to the lake, they pointed to us.

“Why do they call to us… we’re coming!'” Aya told me.

“What?” I answered. “You understand?”

She twitched her beak. “You don’t?”

I didn’t want to land beside them, but Aya had no fear. She alit on a rock and sang in her gorgeous voice as the creatures croaked and cackled around her.

While she spoke, I watched the water. The glow seemed to come from within… there was something in the lake, under even. Deep, deep down. If I listened closely, I could hear it thrumming up from its resting place, sending ripples of light across the surface in a steady heartbeat.

Come, come, come…

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