We’ve had lovely nights these past couple of months; deliciously cool, and with the windows open, I’ve been transported by the night sounds that often go unheard in Florida thanks to the endless thrumming of air conditioners. I’ve heard raccoons rummaging, motorcycles revving at a distance, the low murmur of a couple taking a midnight walk. Soon, the windows will shut for the long, hot months of summer, but for now, spring has begun, and the birds outside my bedroom window have been heralding its arrival for several weeks. (This is a column that originally appeared on my blog and subsequently in the Sarasota Herald Tribune “Sense and the City” newspaper column.)
Not every night, but many nights recently, certain birds, I don’t know what kind, have been calling to each other from trees separated by distances I can’t measure in my mind. Their songs — hypnotic mixtures of calls and whistles and sometimes low-throated trilling — are magical, conjuring up something in my heart and mind and body that seems remarkably close to joy. A quiet, thrilling joy.
Several nights, I’ve slipped quietly from the house to stand in the yard and listen. My eyes wide and searching what I call the “forest” of oaks, practically holding my breath, and unable to resist smiling; but for the life of me I cannot determine from which trees these birds are conducting their spring symphony.
I smile at their faith. Faith that the sound they make from deep within their small bodies will carry out into and through the night air and reach the ears of another like themselves. I find myself somewhat in awe of that faith — the faith it takes to sing in the darkness, through the middle of the night to dawn, across an unmeasured distance, alone, unknowing if, or when, you will be heard.
And maybe that’s not the point anyway; being heard. Maybe the point is simply in the singing. And that thought makes me fall even more madly for these birds.
Whether they’re singing to be heard or not, what must it feel like, then, to hear a song in response that matches your own? What is it like that first moment, that first second, when the return call travels from another branch on another tree in another yard, perhaps blocks away, and reaches back to your bird ears?
Are you moved to flight?
Do you leave the safety of your perch and wing your way through the dark distance to search and find that single branch among all the others that holds the one bird in all of the night who sings as you do?
Or do you stay where you are and just keep singing? Content with the shared melody you both are making despite your separation?
I’d say these birds are haunting me — I think about them during the day and wish for them at night. I feel inexplicably touched by them. I am not a sentimental woman, but these March songbirds have infiltrated my heart.
I’ve researched but so far have not identified these birds that have so enchanted me. Do they only sing like this in March or is that just when I notice them? I don’t know, but it feels a bit lonely to think of having to wait an entire year again to hear these birds I may never see and all-too-rarely hear.
Still, I’m grateful for this spring that brings these precious, nocturnal song-makers to my awareness. Their impassioned, lilting, poignantly sweet music makes me feel more joyously alive in the dark of night than I sometimes think possible by the light of day.