Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The songs of spring

I haven't been out birding in quite sometime. Currently my job keeps me confined to a pretty urban setting. I don't like driving, and it's difficult to find more than robins, cardinals and house sparrows hopping around the city streets. However, the bird world has been renewed for me of late. There has been a lot of rain this week, and there is a park near my house. These two factors plus the spring months equal loads of birds.

On Easter Sunday, I meandered with my binoculars around the park. A thousand songs shot through the air. I'm not sure I can describe the melodic, symphonic, operatic chorus of song bursting from every thicket, branch and perch better or different than the many writers before me, but a chord in my soul was struck. I had forgotten how religious birding can be. It's not just a hobby or a life-list-gathering for the naturalist. It's spiritual. The songs of birds in a clearing after many days of rain is as beautiful as the largest most glorious organ in the cathedrals of Europe.

Maybe I'm a pagan to make this comparison. Maybe I'm a hybrid Romantic-Transcendentalist for feeling saved and reborn while taking in the beauty of color and song. My husband, my sister-in-law and I were perched on a wooden bench underneath a copse of trees deep in conversation when my husband interrupted with shouts and points: "Look! Look! The top of that tree to the right on the highest branch! Do you see that red? It's SO RED!"

Brighter than the cardinal, a neon organgy-red flame lit the tip of the highest branch. Like the flame of faith, seeing the Scarlet Tanager for the first time was like seeing a miracle being performed, like tears rolling down the cheeks of a wood carved virgin Mary. My soul leaped forward to meet my kindred spirit. On Easter, as is the Christian tradition of taking communion, followers of Christ take the bread and the wine. I was in the midst of my own kind of communion---communing with the tiny spirits of song and air. In place of bread, I fed on the green of leaves, the smell of damp earth, the verdure of spring. In place of wine, I drank the color of bird wings painted in red and yellow.

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