Call of the Loon

Natural Thought Prompt 4: A Stance on Lunacy

Dr. Casey Lawrence
Promptly Written
3 min readApr 24, 2022

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Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

The other night as I crossed a busy intersection, a man on the opposite corner cupped his hands over his mouth and made the call of the loon. I stopped dead in my tracks halfway across the street and then had to hurry to make it to the other side before the light changed.

The loon: its modulating tremolo unmistakable. One of the few bird calls I can identify in an instant. I hadn’t heard it in so long.

I grew up in Ontario, Canada. The loon is so ubiquitous there that it is the face of our one-dollar coin, which we affectionately call the Loonie. The sound of a loon’s call in the dead of night is familiar to anyone who has visited any of Ontario’s many lakes.

Kids on the playground used to imitate the noise to call to one another, just as this man on a random street in Denmark did the other night. He pressed his thumbs together and blew a haunting sound threw them, lifting the fingers of his topmost hand to open and close the call: ooh-oh-ooh.

Just like that, I was transported to Fenelon Falls, Jewel of the Kawarthas. A child on a paddleboat, I watched the moon rise over the glassy lake. Far in the distance: that sound. Canada, my home.

The loon call reminds me of Heritage Minutes, sixty-second local history lessons interspersed between commercials on Canadian television stations. The sound has been used as a shorthand for North American settings on TV and in movies for as long as soundscapes have existed; you hear a loon, you know something is set in Ontario or Michigan or perhaps Maine. Although loons range throughout the northern US as well as in Canada, for me, it is the prototypical Canadian sound.

Rose Malana created a prompt for Promptly Written here on Medium with a question about the full moon, lunacy, and science. I don’t believe in lunacy — that the full moon makes us crazy. I do believe that something ephemeral in the night can unlock or trigger something, though.

A warm night in May, on a street corner in Aarhus Denmark, I heard the call of the loon and felt, for a moment, positively giddy. Am I a lunatic or just a nostalgic Canadian? Probably the latter (or at least, I hope). A sound or a smell can transport you to another time, another place.

Stopped halfway across a Danish intersection, I briefly had one foot on the asphalt and the other knee-deep in Lake Cameron, toes curling in the muck of a sandbar.

Moon-madness? Oh no. But I, for one, am positively loony.

This micro-essay / “heritage moment” is very tangentially based on “Natural Thought Prompt #4: A Stance on Lunacy” by Rose Malana. Thank you, Rose, as well as Ravyne Hawke, and the other editors of Promptly Written for their continued support of my work.

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Dr. Casey Lawrence
Promptly Written

Canadian author of three LGBT YA novels. PhD from Trinity College Dublin. Check out my lists for stories by genre/type.