Bagpipes

Since it’s summer and I have been on the topic here and there about Paradise Lake, here’s another story from my childhood up there:

Let’s talk about bagpipes for a minute.  Now, I realize that some people turn up their nose at even the thought of them, let alone listening to even the sound of them.  If you’re one of those types of people, you have probably already envisioned some red-faced guy with chipmunk cheeks blowing fiercely into a hollow tube for all he’s worth who’s wearing a dress and making an ear-splitting racket with that contraption he’s hugging so closely to his person.

While most of us probably picture Great Highland bagpipes from the country of Scotland when we hear them, there is a close cousin to the Great Highland bagpipes and it’s found in Ireland.  Called the Uilleann pipe, it is a “softer” version of the bagpipes we so easily attribute to Scotland, meaning that it has a more mellow tone to it and can tend to not sound so shrill (the beauty of that sound being in the ear of the beholder).

I, myself, have always enjoyed the sound of bagpipes being played.  One summer, upon arriving at the family cabin on Paradise Lake, I was very pleased to discover that someone a few cabins down from our beachfront had a set of bagpipes–and actually knew how to play them!  Now remember, this is a lake in northern Michigan where the early morning hours can be spent just sitting by the lake and listening to nature:  the gentle sound of water lapping against the beach; the distant cry of a seagull as it floats across the lake’s surface;  the hauntingly beautiful call of loons out on the lake somewhere; and even the possibility of seeing a bald eagle soar overhead!

So this individual apparently liked to play the bagpipes in the morning hours, which was much to my appeal.  I can remember getting up early enough to get down to the boathouse to get the oars to the rowboat and a life vest.  There was no rowing quietly with these oars.  They were metal ones, so every time they were moved in the eyelets of the rowboat, they would squeak…badly.  So picture the above-described scene laid out in front of you and suddenly hearing  the slow but determined sound of “screeee……..screeee………screeee……..screeee” as a guy in a rowboat slowly makes his way out onto the lake.  So, nonetheless, I made it out about a hundred yards and dropped anchor, waiting for the bagpipe player to show up.

I’m telling you….to be out there on the waters of Paradise Lake early enough to watch the sun peak over the treetops and listen to those sounds of nature that were all around me was an amazing experience!  But then, to have the hauntingly beautiful sounds of a set of Highlander bagpipes floating across the surface of the water was just….just breathtaking.  I didn’t want it to stop.  And I would even say that if you are one who doesn’t like the sound of bagpipes, even you would have tolerated what I heard that morning and thought it actually sounded pleasant.

I believe the day will come when the waters of Paradise Lake will once again echo with the sounds of a bagpipe.  But this time, since I’m Irish and love the sound of Uilleann Pipes….

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