Sunday, April 19, 2009
One of my favorite spring in DC phenomena is the birdsong. In addition to all the birds who come back to the District to hang out for the summer, we are visited, from March through May, by a whole bunch of migrating birds on their way from somewhere south of here to somewhere north of here.
I read that one hundred years ago there was almost twice as much birdsong in the midatlantic during spring as there is now. The idea boggles the mind because really there are so many birds doing so much singing at this time of year, it's hard to imagine twice as much sound. It's really loud - a bird chorus, a bird opera, a bird rock concert ongoing every day from before dawn until about 10 in the morning. The only human equivalent that comes to mind is Nielsen's Symphony No. 4 ("the Inextinguishable"). There are so many instruments playing, and yet it's incredibly beautiful.
There's one migrating bird in particular whose song is simple and - to me at least - heart opening in the most elegant way imaginable. When I hear that song each spring, it makes me want to cry (in a good way) or transcend my body and float up to the clouds, or write a poem (something I am genetically incapable of). One time on a piano I figured out that this bird's song is one extended E followed by a pause and then three F sharps. Sometimes there are four or five F sharps. Then a pause, back to E. It sounds more like a bell than the whistle sound some birds make. It isn't a chirp, it's a tone. It is so beautiful.
No one I know can name this bird, including a client who is a bird specialist for the Smithsonian. The bird is in town now, accompanying, as it always does, the blooming dogwoods, tulips, and "chubby" clump cherries, singing its heart wrenching song in the midst of a hundred other songs. That bird's song is good for my soul, it is.
Sing on, modern day dinosaurs! Wake me up before it gets light, it's OK by me. Sing on, I am listening! And thank you so much!!