Friday, May 18, 2007

Sweet Evening, Foggy Morning

Last night I finally had some time to sit outside after dinner and observe the activity (and sometimes the lack of it) that happens in the woods. When I’m outside, without a task to occupy me, my mind travels in many directions. It’s like meditation, or perhaps it is meditation, but it’s considerably more refreshing than sitting in a room. Sometimes my thoughts are mundane ones, sometimes I stumble into an insight or two, finding a thought that never occurred to me before.

On a quiet spring evening, when the wind doesn’t stir, the sense I experience most is sound. Bird calls chime from everywhere, though most of the times the birds themselves are hidden deep within the leaves. It’s no surprise that sounds dominate. The foliage is so thick that even birds likely can’t see each other, so their songs tell each other where they are and what they are doing. I am routinely surprised how loud a tiny bird is. Last evening, a wood thrush, which is actually an average sized songbird, sat on a tree just several feet above my shoulder and sang for an hour. That bird was loud! I almost wished it would move away 15-20 feet to give my ears a rest. But of course, not really. The sound is so sweet.

Eventually, the wood thrush stopped singing, and the woods suddenly seemed emptier. Such a little bird, really, to produce that much sound. It’s a good thing the song of the wood thrush is so beautiful or I might have fled into the cabin. The development of such a loud song must have come about when the birds were few and far between—so the sound had to carry in order for them to find mates. And in many places that may still be the case, though it’s not, here in my little corner of the forest. I’m fairly sure I counted at least 10 separate birds last night.

The wood thrush was hardly alone. Ovenbirds sang loudly, too. Pewees, phoebes, robins, one exceptionally loud cardinal (among several others), towhees and others filled the woods with sound, occasionally supplemented by the staccato of a flicker or an excavating woodpecker.

The forest eventually quiets. Darkness comes to the woods before night touches the sky.