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A Piece of My Mind
October 14, 1998

Call of the Loon

Author Affiliations

Edited by Roxanne K. Young, Associate Editor

JAMA. 1998;280(14):1221-1222. doi:10.1001/jama.280.14.1221

The smell is so bad that I angle the canoe to keep the breeze off the port side and out of my face. This is difficult, as the stiff wind pushes the bow back toward the beach and willow reeds. The wave chop sends spray into my face. The boy in the bow handles the paddle clumsily but with enthusiasm. "George [not his real name]," I say, "look at that loon that just surfaced." Its sleek black feathers are barely visible above the wave tops as it bobs on the surface not 10 yards from our bow. George scans the water but does not register the pointed beak and dappled body. His territory is the inner city. His recognition patterns are the dangerous corners, the drug runners, the safe houses.