bring on the birds

by bam

it seems fitting, doesn’t it, to begin the new year with an ear to the symphony outside. the sounds we don’t notice. the birdsong we are missing, dashing in and out from the house to the car to the errands that never ever seem to stop.

i was just out listening. and i’m telling you, it was an awakening. bach and beethoven, they tried. but they never got close. never got close to the sound and the song that the little birds make.

i had a fellow over, a wonderful fellow, the sort you want to sip coffee and listen to all the day long. his name is tim joyce, and he is a bird man. he came for a story i’m working on, a story about birdscaping, which is, believe it or not, the fine art of figuring which birds you might attract, and then laying out a plot for doing just that. it’s the bird version of landscaping. only it’s all about bringing on the birds.

so for a good hour or more, in the finger-numbing chill of this january morn, we stood and we watched and we listened. there were, in no particular order, house finches, house sparrows, black-cap chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, and red-breasted ones, too. there was a red-bellied woodpecker, a downy woodpecker, an american crow, and darn it, european starlings. of course, there were cardinals, my signature bird. and last but not least there were juncoes and goldfinch.

what all of that means is that nestled in the branches of my pines and my old scrubby brush, i have whole civilizations with stories to tell and flutterings to delight.

this tim fellow, bearded and spectacled, unspooled tales of how the starling, a seed swisher and most social bird i now know, was an invader from europe, how they’d come generations ago, brought over by settlers who, so the story goes, thought a starling in the background would make a new york city performance of shakespeare’s “king lear” seem so much more authentic. who knew?

he told how a hummingbird, flying from the yucatan peninsula to a quiet little corner of, perhaps, southern ontario, would dart into my little yard if i put out a hummingbird feeder, dally for a day or two, and then in the fall, flying back south, would remember my spot on the map and make a certain return. imagine that, my very own hummingbird friend.

but, he cautioned, should i ever forget to put out fresh hummingbird nectar (aka sugar water) and that sojourner took a gulp of bird drink gone bad, i would be blackballed forever by that sweet little flapper. egad.

all in all, it enchanted. and it turned on lightbulbs galore. here, in my little corner of the world, close enough to the big city that i’m there in a blink, i could be brushed day in and day out by the spectacle of God’s winged creation. what it takes, most of all, is carving out time, carving out quiet, to sit and to marvel at all that’s around me.

what if every morning i started my day not with a leap to the treadmill but instead crept outside, bowed to the rising sun and listened for the bach and the beethoven already nestled in my limbs?

i’m curious. how do you bring the natural world into your every day? is it the stars, or the moon? the rising or setting sun? and what about the birds, do you ever stand at your window and marvel, or better yet, step outside and drink in their song?