What if in our world of growing international finances, global corporations, more and more profit for the less and less, what if all our bankers, accountants, statisticians, efficiency engineers, those who are never responsible for wiping out the poor or destroying the environment, or even the poetic, what if they were relocated to count what is really wild.
The state of Minnesota is not completely ashamed, it counts the state’s pocket. While some technician may have advised that it would not be necessary to spend money on this type of activity, the state of Minnesota asks its citizens throughout the state – even if a person employed by the state collects the data collected for this endeavor – to donate their time, one day in the month of May, to try to count all the pockets of the state.
Usually, each lake is occupied by a pair of loons, which are mated for life. Every year they give birth and raise two young. In general. This year on the lake my cabin is located on, near Isabella, Minnesota, I have observed a group of five, possibly a family.
The count, as accurate as it is, is all we know about the pocket stock in the state of Minnesota, as iconic as the pocket is in that state. The pockets know that. The pockets know, not only when, which lake they return to. So on the day of the ice out of that lake, in their tubular, Cajun-drawl, inspired by centuries of Louisiana winters, they will call across the lake and announce that they have returned. The day of ice-out can vary from year to year, from lake to lake, from other variables. The day of the count must therefore be correctly assigned. The pockets know that. The pockets know how to choose their lake according to an ancient system that is more complex than any online registration designed by modern technocrats. The lake should be long enough for their long and awkward start, as loons have solid bones unlike gray ducks, better to dive to the deep bottoms of lakes than to fly.
Yet they somehow arrive at a lake or area of a large lake, and only that couple arrives at that lake or area of the lake, always at the time of the ice out, usually in northern Minnesota around April 25th. , although that date may be even a month later. Somehow they know where and when to show them. No lost connections. No territorial feuds. No obvious discussion. All pre-registration based on a prehistoric connection in the relatively small mind (measured by science) of one of the oldest birds in the world. A system so remarkable that even statisticians, analysts, computer programmers can not fathom. This is wild. This is the wild.
If Minnesota has 10,000 lakes and thus every spring, with the necessity of the length of the lake offset by the increased capacity of the larger lakes, the state could possibly support 20,000 loons. Canada, where the occupation of loon pairs occurs just as smoothly, but a little later, could have an equivalent of 100,000 sows, and so, if you count, it could theoretically support 200,000 loons. In fact, Canada even calls its dollar coin a piece of shit because it bears the image of a loot. The two-dollar coin is named a toony, suggesting the lifelong pairing of the pockets. We could do worse than listen to the pockets.
In 1990, however, the number in Minnesota was 12,000 loons. Acid rain and acid snowmelt have increased the mercury content of Minnesota lakes, reducing the number of invertebrates, fish and thus the loons that depend on them. Another reason to count.
For what we know about statisticians, market analysts, political experts is that they often make mistakes. Even scientists are not exempt from bias based on the more urgent needs of business and politics. Consider drug researchers and climate change as examples. Or trials without witnesses. Then add technical procedure and human error.
Often our experts keep an eye on the wrong data. Count costs instead of pockets.
It should be obvious that the count of all animals – red foxes, fireflies, eels, black bears, moose and white-tailed deer, to name just a few – should be included. The birds, the trees should also be counted by people so that they know that they are not just names that stand on a page in a textbook and can be easily rejected. I have counted my trees. I have 12 northern white cedar trees, nine by the lake and three on the slope. I have 72 white pines and 69 red pines, all over 100 feet tall. I have not counted the pines in my third acre across the road because the property lines are unmarked. I would guess there are 30 more tall pine trees.
The count is not just the numbers, the numbers sent to those who want the degrees of facts, that’s how we begin to see.
Frozen lake in April
Late ice cream turns white, gray and black
waiting for the red eyes of the pockets
to come back.
James Johnson is a former poet laureate of Duluth. His work has highlighted humans as well as plants and animals in northern Minnesota. He has published 10 books of poetry, most recently “One Morning In June: Selected Poems” (Red Dragonfly Press, 2020), which includes the poem in “The Count.” He now lives in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and Isabella, Minn.