I heard a small bird calling this morning as I was waking up, a sweet plaintive call that seemed to echo and trill the very song of life. I remember long ago, hearing the same calling birdsong on dewey mornings in fall. The cats, who lived outside all the time, would ignore them in favor of piling themselves together under a shrub, flattening the foxtails and grasses with their sleep-warmed bodies, making no noise at all, deeply relaxed in slumber.
In the cold and damp of predawn autumn, small birds, too chilled to do anything but fluff their feathers and wait, gripped the small branches and high wires near the roof tops. One bird, in a hiccup of discovery, would make a tentative chirp, and it would be a signal, like house lights flashing before a performance, that something was beginning to change. In response, other birds would begin to rustle, chirp, flap and preen until everyone would declare themselves loudly from every corner of the yard and beyond, a feathered company of shouting, singing birds waking the world up in their own words.
The first chorus of songbirds in the morning has no real equivalent in our human world. I don't know of any place where people wake up, stand up on their chairs and sing loudly to the world, uninhibited, before they do anything else: "This is my house, I am here, the sun is coming up! Tra la la la!"
The little bird I heard today was a bit more wistful than other birds usually sound. He was still sounding his call, though, a little sparrow with something to say, singing sweetly from a branch high in the neighbor's yard.
There isn't any calling right now; it's the middle of the day and everything, everyone is going about their business, done with declarations of existence for the time being. What a treat while it lasted, though. Because they called out and announced themselves at the top of their small lungs, I knew I was alive, too. Can I imagine a world where there are no birds singing up the sunrise? No sweet voices that seem to express life itself? Only when I am in cities, but even then I imagine the voices I have heard in more-whole places as a means of soothing myself.
I'll be listening for the sweet little call tomorrow morning, a signal that a day is coming 'round, and that that little bird knows it is alive, part of the whole of nature.
Causes Christine Bottaro Supports
The Nature Conservancy, California State Parks, The United Way