When I open the windows of my study in the first light of morning the sound of birds spills in, a full musical program, like I have fired up a playlist of classical music or jazz. Usually I just soak the morning sounds without conscious thought while I write, but because I have been away, today I listen into the music like I make my children listen into the radio to identify the instruments as we drive to school. I hear chirps and chips and clucks and long cooing calls. I hear cheka-checka-checka and a dry rattling like dice shaking in a cup made from bone. I hear one bird chiding the others – tsk, tsk, tsk – in a long combined piece of advice: tsktsktsktsktsk.
One call starts on the same plane as the others but then warbles higher, loops around – a rollercoaster on one of those fantastic tracks that twists and inverts and loop-de-loops as it rackets forward – climbing higher, louder, more insistent, until it stands fully free from the other chatter. I don’t know which bird this call comes from. We don’t have much exotica here – mostly sparrows and robins and starlings, occasional blue jays, cardinals, a hummingbird or two – but this one comes from a bird that I don’t know about. For a minute, I consider doing some research. In today’s world of instant knowledge I have no doubt that if I try I will find audio recordings of the different species and with patience, diligence and determination I could probably identify which specie is emitting that fantastic arching call.
Yes, if I went at it, if I applied in this area the analytic talent that I have applied in other areas – including many far less consequential – I believe I would be able to say which bird is crying out above all the rest. And if I were to bear down on that research question I would learn much more. The sounds outside my window aren’t the sounds of gleeful pandemonium that rise from a school playground at recess. The birds below my window are making those noises for a reason. Or many reasons. Those birds are calling and shushing and and clucking and tskking for a purpose. They are hunting and mating. Mommas are schooling their chicks. Territory is being marked; alerts are being given. There are cries for help. This is a city and the birds are full of all those same urges and needs to communicate that people in my city are full of – at least this is what I bet research would tell me – and this is what I hear from my window on a summer morning listening deep into their music.
It would be, it must be, a worthwhile effort to undertake – that is why I make my children identify the instruments that combine to play Kind of Blue or The Brandenburg Concertos – but I decide not to pursue that line of inquiry today. I have been away and have come home wearied. Today I don’t feel it matters if it is the thrush or the robin that looses that high topping call, the one that startles me with its insistence and glory. It does not matter if that call is a cry for help or sex or a warning to family. Today, it is the insistence – it is the glory – that I want to soak in, not the explication. Tomorrow I will bear down. Tomorrow I will follow questions to their conclusion. Tomorrow I will seeketh understanding. But today – this morning – I will let the morning music wash over me and soak down to that place in the bones where healing happens.