The Sounds of the Day


I’ve been working at my desk all day, and for the first time since early June the temperature outside during the hottest part of the afternoon never got above 75, with a breeze coming off of the bay and the skies overcast enough to keep even the August sun from seeming strong. I had to clean up some last minute details on a project I promised would be in the mail tomorrow, however, so inside I stayed against my natural instincts. 

I opened the windows, though, which look out over a couple of acres of woods, and all day long–sometimes in the distance beyond my attention which was focused on the computer screen, but also often overtly present, literally on the sill just inches from the window screen–a variety of birds sang me through the hours. I don’t know their names, so I certainly can’t tell you which call came from which bird, but it was like sitting in a chair in an aviary, unnoticed by the occupants. A few cardinals and robins–those are easy to spot–and one last goldfinch before she heads south. They’re my favorite; yellow ones are my favorite. 

These birds surround me all the time, but they so often compete for attention with the mower or radio or work I’m doing outside which scares them anyway, or the blasts from whatever farm equipment my neighbor might be working on. Today though, with the lower temps allowing for open windows, a neighbor who is apparently away, and a soft breeze, I found such peace as I worked. It was a unique chance to work “in” nature without actually nature knowing I was there. Maybe my tapping on the keyboard sounded like pecking birds. Doubtful. Don’t care. They came and they stayed and sang to me all afternoon. 

Tomorrow I’m starting a couple of writing courses at Old Dominion University, in the city, in a nine-story building next to a boulevard, just on the other side of a four-story parking garage. I anticipate a lack of wildlife, and while birds might abound on campus, they won’t be outside my window because where I’ll be doesn’t HAVE a window. Such contrast. Earlier I received an email from the university asking if I have everything I need for the semester. 

Birds, I thought. I could use a couple of thrushes and perhaps a house wren or two. 

The truth is, I need so very little. A view of some trees or a river or bay, a soft breeze, or, lacking that, the hot sun on my neck, the call of a gull from above. I’ve not yet figured out how to do only that: write and be surrounded by nature–non-judgmental, deep-truth nature. Someday. Maybe I wouldn’t appreciate today as much as I do if I wasn’t headed toward what awaits in the city tomorrow. I’m certain that is true.

But I must learn the sounds of the birds. They bring me such peace, like the sound of a soft wind coming off of the river, or the water pushing at the shore. It reminds me of who I am, and reminds me of who I’m not when I’m elsewhere, which can be equally valuable. I think there was a time I got lost in who I wasn’t because I never took the time to discover who I am to begin with, an anchor of sorts to tug me back home. 

Okay, one just called and I know that one; it’s an osprey. They’ll be leaving soon as well, for South America, but the bald eagles will come in their stead for the winter–eagles are much more stealth. They just sit and stare out like they’re thinking of something else. I bet they have really low blood pressure. 

I’m more eagle than osprey; more cardinal than wren. 


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