In the City
When it became spring again, we began sleeping with our windows flung open with abandon to the fresh air. Alongside a mile-long ravine smack in the city, sometimes I woke up in the dead of night and heard an owl hoot. Or I’d wake a few hours later but still very early around 430 when the first birds were starting to warm up. Or maybe my first peek would be 30 or 45 minutes later when the cacophony had become orchestral. At some point in those earlier days of Covidtide, I decided that God was talking with me. If I stayed right on the edge of consciousness, trying to remember my dreams and not frustrating myself with the early hour, I could start—just barely—to make sense of things.
Then later in the morning perched on our covered porch in front—my anchorhold—cradling a mug of steaming coffee and curled under a down blanket, I could almost close my eyes to slits and begin to hear the tiny descant-like voices of the preschoolers who live near us. They are not always content, of course, but especially early in the day, they utter kind things to each other and their mother calls them, “My love.” Quietly and secretly, I begin to fold the syllables of their dialogue in amongst the birdsong. I pick up the soundwaves of God’s avian cantatas with human peeps and twitters folded in.
I delight when my neighbor across the street opens his home-office windows and I catch a syllable or two of French as he zooms with his business-mates through the airwaves across the sea. The pulses rise to operatic when Spanish syllables of the nearby workers join in along with the barking dogs and the tinkling sounds of our garden fountain. What could be better?
How about the magic at dusk when most of the birds have gone to rest? Then I marvel when I hear Rob call the young owls and they land on the telephone wires outside our open bedroom window. He has learned to exchange long whistles and draw them close to us.
At the Shore
Today we are at the beach house. I am perched among my feathered friends because the best living spaces for humans are on the second floor; our deck reaches out into the scrubby trees around us. I can see five feeders from here—two are flat; one’s a suet cage; there’s a small red-roofed swinging contraption and a sugar hummingbird feeder. The chirps and caws have settled a bit because it’s after noon now. The related sounds I notice are the flutters as the finches and ruby-throated hummers whir around me. Their tiny claws click as they grab the wire mesh. Cracks of seed come from their beaks. The little person across the canal from us adds her before-naptime complaints to the symphony. The progress of construction projects, drilling and hammering, punctuates the air.
This morning I was the first human being up and was situated under a celestial blue sky. Writing, listening, praying, and glancing up occasionally at sunshine glistening on the water nearby. Just in time to identify the white-tailed deer when I heard her prancing through the yard below me. Usually our good and quiet friends are the only people nearby when we’re here. This time though a jolly troop of mostly young adults is camping in the vacant lot between us. As they began to rise and stagger out of their tents and an abrasive-sounding motorcycle revved up, I wasted about 60 seconds lamenting and wondering, “Where has the peace-and-quiet gone?”
Then I shifted. After all, these snippets too are sounds of life—the giggles, greetings, commentary of relaxation and contentment, bacon sizzling. Around 11 o’clock, a reassuring “Daylight in the camp!” rang forth from the patriarch/new owner we are getting to know. This mixed in with grunts from the slugabeds and guffaws in response.
Again, it occurred to me. Amidst the steady birdsong, God was speaking with me. All these sounds could be encouraging. I realized this is all evidence of connection. Clearly also worthy of enjoyment, curiosity. I can be peaceful in this fun marching-band-like hoorah too. The air we share is packed with a variety of sound waves, gentle and loud too.
That’s when a little chickadee chirped close to me. I looked up to see a smaller and more-fluffy-than-usual, black-capped fledgling. About three feet from my face. The challenge was not to move and still remember the next stroke of my pen. Maybe he’d hop across those three feet to glance at the story I was writing. Or maybe not. Regardless more evidence, confirmation of the web.
We are one in song, be it percussion, melody, voice. We create an exquisite ballad sometimes accompanied, like today, by the wind chimes over there. Even more distantly, the rhythmic hum of giant waves. With certainty, the Pacific Ocean purrs underneath the other music as she rocks and cradles us all.