I step out into the dawn air to hear the morning music of the birds, the cardinals, the robins, the wrens. But it’s muffled by the steady hum from the nearby freeway. Streams of commuters are bearing down on their day, speeding toward their many responsibilities. I say a prayer for them before going inside.
Imagine beginning your day by singing just for the joy of it, just because your little slice of earth has turned back toward the sun. Imagine beginning the day with gladness first, before you remember all the things you are dreading, before you make the coffee, before you look at the news.
Morning has broken
Like the first morning,
Blackbird has spoken
Like the first bird.
Praise for the singing!
Praise for the morning!
Praise for them, springing
Fresh from the Word!
—Eleanor Farjeon (1881–1965)
A long stretch of chilly days, typical New England early spring. I’ve been spending way too much time on the couch lately, so this afternoon I finally made myself take a walk, even though there just hasn’t been much to see out there, bird-wise. I’m restless for migration season to start. But I put on my coat, grabbed my binoculars, stepped out the door—and heard a red-tailed hawk scream. Yes, there it was, circling the roofs of our apartment complex. A male announcing his territory to any and all competitors, wheeling and gliding on the wind.
But that was just the prelude. Walking through the nearby office park a few minutes later, I raised my binoculars to a bird on a branch, expecting a house sparrow or a jay, and found myself gazing directly at a cedar waxwing. And another! And—I turned and saw a whole flock of them in the trees over my head. A good 20 at least, glowing yellow and peach in the late afternoon light. I knew they liked to flock, but I’d never come across more than one or two at a time before. It was like seeing a vision.
A little further along, guys in hardhats getting off work for the day, pausing to chat for a moment at their cars. Awash in bird endorphins, I wanted to take them by the hand and say, “Come with me, I have something to show you! Something glorious, a bona-fide office park miracle; come and look!” But we can’t say things like that to each other, we can’t just bare our hearts to strangers (why can’t we, though?), and besides I doubt it would have meant much to them. (You never know, though: Bird people are everywhere.)
So instead I just entered my waxwings into ebird, along with the hawk, and continued on. The air rumbled with the sound of earth-movers in the near distance, remaking bits of the landscape for new human purposes. HVAC systems whirred in the office buildings, cars passed. On foot, uninsulated, I may have been the one soul lucky enough to have glimpsed mystery in the trees at the side of the drive, dozens of pastel-colored birds calmly rising and rearranging and alighting.
The City Limits
When you consider the radiance, that it does not withhold itself but pours its abundance without selection into every nook and cranny not overhung or hidden; when you consider
that birds’ bones make no awful noise against the light but lie low in the light as in a high testimony; when you consider the radiance, that it will look into the guiltiest
swervings of the weaving heart and bear itself upon them, not flinching into disguise or darkening; when you consider the abundance of such resource as illuminates the glow-blue
bodies and gold-skeined wings of flies swarming the dumped guts of a natural slaughter or the coil of shit and in no way winces from its storms of generosity; when you consider
that air or vacuum, snow or shale, squid or wolf, rose or lichen, each is accepted into as much light as it will take, then the heart moves roomier, the man stands and looks about, the
leaf does not increase itself above the grass, and the dark work of the deepest cells is of a tune with May bushes and fear lit by the breadth of such calmly turns to praise.
Also in the neighborhood today, the usual assortment of locals—
robins starlings chickadees tufted titmice crows red-winged blackbirds mallards Canada geese house sparrows herring gulls blue jays goldfinches
oh, and a northern mockingbird, singing so beautifully.