25 May 2009

Bird Songs

Birds chirp almost incessantly outside my new home. Day and night. I have never been a fan, thus cannot identify them by their song, but I suspect the late night warbler, who begins almost on cue when I retire to bed, is perhaps a nightingale, and as such, to be treasured. The internet advises me there are many different types of warblers around here. Also mockingbirds, who I am told have a plethora of sounds. Mockingbirds are territorial and this, the spring, is their mating season, their nightly music their mating call. Their music is not only loud but powerful. Persuasive I imagine to those in wait. I lay in bed and try to decipher the code. What are the repetitions? Is there a coda? What makes them stop, and start again? I try to experience the music in what is otherwise merely sound that pierces the silence of night.

I never knew that birds were nocturnal. Not until I moved to California. A similar night bird serenaded me the first weeks, perhaps months I resided at my first Laguna Beach home, as if a reminder that I was no longer in Connecticut. I did not need a reminder then, nor do I need it now, and I imagine their east coast cousins also sing in mating season and beyond, however I hadn’t paid much attention. I was always more attuned to city street sounds. My new home is surrounded by interesting foliage and it is a quieter environ, equally as pleasant to birds who long to be heard. Is it warmer temperatures that encourage their musicality? Perhaps they are in effect celebrating the pleasures of life here.

If I am to sleep, I must make friends with bird songs. I try to think of it as music because music is a lovely lullaby. Mind over matter. I imagine the bird as philharmonic musician, replete with starched white collar and cummerbund. The image makes me laugh, not conducive to sleep. Now I try to imagine the bird as a street musician, which in fact it is, a tiny hat perched precariously on a neighboring branch to capture loose change. This is equally ludicrous, and makes me concentrate on the music, rather than relegate the bird to background. I harken back to the sound of the elevated subway that paced infrequently but regularly through the night only a few blocks away from my childhood home in the Bronx, New York. I rarely awakened to the sound. I took comfort in its constancy. This is the approach that might work – relegate the sound to white noise. Like sea breezes or the chatter of neighbors on a nearby porch. However these birds wants to be heard. I must find a way to honor that. Like any other voice. Perhaps the only way to make friends with the sound is to listen harder. Listen more actively. Active listening, the lesson taught at PTA’s so that we might truly hear our children, hear what they mean as much as what they say. The lesson of good communication. Listen well. A Buddhist parable.

Who would have thought that annoying loud little birds would convey such a profound message. I am listening little birds. I am listening very hard to what needs to be heard.

Photo of Mockingbird in Long Beach by Monte Taylor.