Ease Into the Conversation

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My bird, my darling,
Calling through the cold of afternoon—
Those round, bright notes,
Each one so perfect
Shaken from the other and yet
Hanging together in flashing clusters!
The small soft flowers and the ripe fruit
All are gathered.
It is the season now of nuts and berries
And round, bright, flashing drops
In the frozen grass.
~Katherine Mansfield “Winter Bird”

 

 

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Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone…

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.
~David Whyte from “Everything is Waiting for You”

 

 

 

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This time of year we sit in silence, waiting for the conversation to resume.

There are hunters firing in the woods and the wetlands around our farm, most likely aiming for the few ducks that have stayed in the marshes through the winter, or possibly a Canadian goose or a deer to bring home for the freezer.  The typical day-long serenade of birdsong is now replaced by shotguns popping, hawks and eagle’s mating chitters from the treetops, with the bluejays arguing over the last of the filbert nuts.

The song birds have ceased their usual constant conversation.  They swoop in and out to the feeders, intent on survival, less worried about mating rituals and territorial establishment.

On the clear cold evenings, when coyotes aren’t howling in the moonlight, owls hoot to each other across the fields from one patch of woods to another, their gentle resonant dialogue echoing back and forth.

But no birdsong arias;  I’m left bereft of their blending musical tapestry that wakes me at 4 AM in the spring and summer. And the rising and falling of the annual evening peeper orchestra tuning up in the swamps is still two months away.

It is much too quiet now, this time of winter bereavement, this feeling of being alone in a cold and hostile world. The chilly silence of the darkened days, interrupted by gunshot percussion, feels like a baton raised in anticipation after rapping the podium to bring us all to attention. I wait and listen for the downbeat — the return of birds and frogs tuning their throats, preparing their symphony to ease themselves back into the conversation, to express joy and wonder and exuberance at the return of spring.

I want to stick around for the whole concert, hoping always for an encore.

 

 

redfinch

 

 

Night-Weary Heavens

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Suddenly a blackbird flew to the top of a beech. She perched way up on the tompost twig that stuck up thin against the sky and sat there watching how, far away over the trees, the night-weary pale-gray heavens were glowing in the distant east and coming to life. Then she commenced to sing.

Her little black body seemed only a tiny dark speck at that distance. She looked like a dead leaf. But she poured out her song in a great flood of rejoicing through the whole forest. And everything began to stir. The finches warbled, the little red-throat and the gold finch were heard. The doves rushed from place to place with a loud clapping and rustling of wings. The pheasants cackled as though their throats would burst. The noise of their wings, as they flew from their roosts to the ground, was soft but powerful. They kept uttering their metallic, splintering call with its soft ensuing chuckle. Far above the falcons cried sharply and joyously, “Yayaya!”

The sun rose.
~Felix Salten from Bambi

 

I had not actually been aware of the silence of the winter sunrise until the birds returned this week and the stillness retreated.   Last autumn their joyous morning songs had gradually ebbed as darkness expanded,  the heavy frosts driving them south to more hospitable climates.  Once in a while, if I listened carefully, there would be geese and trumpeters flying overhead with audible wing rushes and an occasional honk, though invisible in the fog and morning clouds.

Otherwise the eastern winter horizon would be lit to glowing each morning in stillness, without announcement or heralding song.  As if no one was there to notice.

The sunrises have a soundtrack again, just a few lines to introduce the symphony of spring around the corner.   In a short few weeks it will be all out booming chorus and I’ll be wishing for bird mufflers at 4:15 AM.

And so joy returns in the morning and I’m noticing.

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