bring on the birds
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?
the moon at dawn this morning was immense, at the western horizon, the low silver orb hung softly in the wet sky and cast its patina broadly across snow covered fields. all was quiet. hushed. this is the time of the full wolf moon, hiding behind thick gray clouds, then out again as though on the prowl. we too came out today, our return after the holidays. at early dusk the moon hung white at the eastern horizon, returned, now more full, now less ominous. who knows tomorrow?
This bird knowledge is fascinating! I’m sorry not to make human friends for life as easily as I could make a long-term relationship with a bird, but I am glad that my human friends give me more chances than a bird-friend would should I forget to put out the goods.In the natural world, I like the moon and my littler daughter draws me back to the natural world a lot. It’s her world way more than mine. Yesterday, we had a heated disagreement about the fullness of the moon. She thought it was full and I thought not. Waxing or waning? We hadn’t kept track in previous nights so no clue. We took a late night walk with the dog and looked and looked and debated again. Our intention was to go online when we got into the house to settle the matter with the Farmer’s Almanac. We thought that was pretty east meets west, or tech meets my own childhood. Our neighbor appeared with his dog and we asked him to vote. We told him why, but not whose vote was whose. Full, he said. I didn’t get why they didn’t see what I saw: a teensy bit of slice off at the south west corner, I thought. We told John we were going in to check on farmersalmanac.com. Don’t go, he said, I have it on my phone, whereupon he pulled out a little Palm Treo and clicked on moon phases, and there on his screen was a beautiful picture of the current moon, with the information that it was 97% and that it would be full on January 3rd at 7:58am. Waxing. The three of us had that moment together that we could’t have had separately. Maybe this is how Mr. T felt when he cheered in the New Year a few nights ago with the big guys.
blessed, blessed both of you, you who hang over me here like moons on the rise in the eastern sky. your keen observations, your poetry, your tale, jan, of you and the littler one…..those are the reasons this whole table was born. might i bow deeply and thank both of you for your great gift of responding. which, after all, is what each of our hearts is in search of…..there is nothing like the wisdom of those who pull up their chairs to this table. i am but a wee voice. you amplify and astound. i am humbled, and deeply in thanks. i am licking up that story above, every last drop. who knew that the gift of the third was a very full moon. so funny, tonight, driving east, i too was debating the moon to myself. i thought, certainly, i saw a bit nibbled off the face at 7 oclock. i know a school, a miraculous one, that has kindergarteners keep a moon journal. i think a walk in the night should be a regular part of the poetry of the everyday…..blessings. b
Funny all these responses about the moon. I’ve always thought that if I weren’t a Christian I would probably worship the moon. Our three-year-old named our house Moon House, and though I don’t know why she did it, it is perfectly appropriate. It is the only home in which I’ve ever lived that I have been awakened out of a dead sleep in the dead of night by the full moon beaming into a strangely-placed small window, high on our west wall in the bedroom. The first time it happened I was so disoriented I didn’t know whether it was night or day or maybe the end of the world, a bright round sun in a black sky. Now I am used to this routine interruption, and grateful that I get an extra dose of the moon this way. It’s also the only home where we’ve been able to view a lunar eclipse with our children, wrapped up in blankets, in the quiet, on our laps, on our very urban back porch. Wonderful. What’s great is that even in the midst of the city the moon forces itself upon us, compels us toward awe at the natural world.
i believe the moon is unanimously and henceforth a full-fledged citizen of this table. we shall keep an eye always on the orb, the crescent, the sliver. who knew we would veer toward the moon, the moon? so much to say, to wonder, to howl at the moon. i love three-year-olds. the moon house. sigh. all three-year-olds are invited to the table, too. we know no bounds…..the most amazing thing is knowing that, wherever we pull our chair to the table, the same moon shines on us all. i drank in the moon over lake michigan last night, knowing my brother beloved and his beloved drank in the same moon over casco bay. and it shines over prescott, az. and it shines over the port of los angeles. and my becca’s mom’s neighbor, on sidey’s pond, on cape cod, is up there now, in the dark–or the light of the dark–on the space station. for cryin out loud. she is up THERE looking at us, all of us, while each one of us cranes our neck, peers on high. drinks in the moon……drinks in the waning wolf moon…….
Have you ever gone out at night to watch Station fly over? It’s one of my favorite things to do. It’s been way too long since I did. Need to do that.
dear darling nancy, what is watch station fly over? i’m intrigued….xoxox