It’s between 5 and 6 a.m. The outside lake world reflects a golden sunrise and our loon family swims serenely near the dock. This loon family we call “ours” was in the same place last night when the full moon climbed into the sky. It was the 50th anniversary of the lunar launch that culminated in men walking on the surface of the moon July 20, 1969.

How strange and marvelous that still seems.

This daybreak my husband and I are in bed in the place a friend recently dubbed our “very own tree house.” Indeed, if not for windows, the leaves of the trees would be touchable. As is, we watch through glass while they dance and shimmer, two-sided in the dawn: the side illumined by the rising sun sparkles in bright metallic variations; the side backlit glows rich green.


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Our bedroom is a perch of sorts, upstairs, directly above the cabin kitchen, small with sliding glass doors to a deck facing the lake (a deck built specifically for two people sitting, coffee cups in hand). On this morning—as has been true most days this summer—we see loons already feeding. Day after day parent loons dive again and again, bringing up minnows to feed their twin offspring.

We’ve watched the loon family since late May when the babies were little more than balls of fuzz. Since then they have grown big. (Do two months of life make them adolescents?) This week is the first time we’ve seen the young ones actually dive—an essential step to survival on their own. In the meantime the parents patiently feed them while they learn.

I get out of bed and stand by the screen of the open sliding doors. The scene before me might not qualify among “seven wonders of the world,” and yet it is phenomenal to me—my nirvana—unceasingly pleasing, soul-filling; healing. (If only I could bottle such moments of contentment to uncork in cold, cruel winter.)

The night of July 20, 1969, I was at the Grand Forks airport to pick up my boyfriend who had been on an interview trip. His plane landed not long before Neil Armstrong’s first moon steps, which we watched on the small black and white TV in the terminal. Then we walked out into the warm summer night and looked up at the moon in wonderment.

Much is being made about how unified Americans were over the 1969 lunar landing. And we were. But we were horribly fractured, too: the Vietnam War, generational clashes, racial and gender issues, and a corrupt presidential administration tore us in many directions. And yet down deep we shared a belief that good minds, good intentions, and grit could make the impossible, possible. In the lunar landing, it did.

My boyfriend in 1969—now husband—and I didn’t anticipate what we’d be doing in 50 years. We didn’t know a “loon-er launch” would fill us with a different kind of wonderment.