I got home in the early afternoon on a cool day in April. I went out on the back deck to check out the situation and there… there…
Had I not been able to see a thing, it would have still been a blessing because the chorus of birdsong rivaled anything ever composed by Handel or Rutter. Wanting to bathe myself in this rich aural moment, I rushed back in to get my ENO and a couple books appropriate to savor the moment, some Wendell Berry and some John Muir.
The hammock secure, I nestled in and began to listen. To listen the way I used to when I mounted just the right record on my audiophile turntable and sat at the right angel to the speakers for optimal stereo separation and frequency response. Except today, there were no electronics. No technology. No anti static record fluid.
It was sensational:
Teacher, teacher, teacher, teacher……… Gibery, gibery, gibery – Gibery, gibery gibery
Chit Chit, chit Chit Chit, chit, chit
A modal scale worthy of a John Coltrane solo, played over and over in perfect rhythm
A Harley Davidson winding out it’s gears
Beecher, beecher, beecher Beecher, beecher, beecher Beecher, beecher beecher
Pruit Pruit Pruit A 737 engine climbing to altitude from McGee Tyson
We arrrre, we arrrrrre, chibber, chibber, chibber
Caw caw caw caw caw
The 5 speed transmission of an old Ford pickup with a bad muffler, grinding it out
Burgee, burgee, burgee, burgee, burgee
A commercial lawn mower, and a leaf blower
A skill saw screaming
Urrrrr chee, chee, chee, chee, chee
A train whistle Slabs of wood being dropped in a pile
A Bobcat spreading gravel at the new house down the street
A hedge trimmer next door
Wheeee che de de de de de
A Japanese motorcycle bragging its horsepower through a high pitched whine
Dog…. no, dogs barking The air conditioner across the street
An airplane droning across the sky A police siren, or maybe a firetruck?
A constant low roar combining all this, times a hundred, spreading out from every direction, sound waves moving in and out of phase – the pulse of a mechanical heartbeat
I became aware of my shame as I seemed to be an expert in the noise of man, yet I could barely mimic the birdsong, knowing nothing of the artist that shared it. My shame bore anger and the magic was gone.
The ENO was stuffed in its sack, the books were gathered and I returned to my box and shut the door. At least it was quiet there, but the artificial kind of quiet that comes from a well insulated wall, not the stillness of a cool breeze whispering across a meadow.
The city is noisy. But the birds do not care. Their beautiful songs are inherent in their nature and they share freely and joyfully
With each other
With the rest of creation
I wish I could be more like they are.