HEADING FOR THE HILLS
I saw and stack logs on the dry stone wall. When will the music begin? The sun will rise soon. Then he is there, behind me, on the dead branches of a walnut tree strangled by ivy. The song thrush fills the air with genius.
I work on – my daily beginning, steadily clearing the debris after the January snows. No tree survived intact. Some were split down the middle as if cleaved by a giant axe. Limbs lie everywhere. I need to keep chipping away, cutting, mulching and deciding where to leave things to take their course. Decay is part of the circle of life, food for the land, for the insects and, in turn, the birds. I must be mindful to balance, for this farm is a cooperative. The thrush is proof, his company the measure that we might be doing something right.
The sun is unheeded today. Gold on blue. I feel it on my back and consider when the snakes will stir from the shadow cracks of the wall. I lean on the warm red rocks stacked by Joan a century ago and look up at the thrush wondering where the mud cup nest will be built, the blue eggs laid. Less choice this broken year.
These birds live on average for 3-4 years, if they can dodge the killers. The speckle-chested masters of melody, preyed on by raptors but also trapped and eaten by human idiots, herald the awakening after winter.
Their numbers are dropping, their song fading. I have listened to two on the farm this February, content to know they know there are snails aplenty for them here. The females look just like the males and they will raise 2-3 broods during the breeding season. I have yet to witness one of them on his or her chosen anvil, the rocks where they so cleverly crack open the shells.
There are other songsters stirring too and many to follow, not least the nightingales for whom this is also a home, but Turdus philomelos is my first love.
As I listen, my gaze glides from the thrush in the walnut to the limestone ridge beyond, pink with first rays. The light show of dawn makes it appear to move. And, of course, it is. The Earth breathes in and out, rising and falling, forever changing, giving and taking. We are but an eye blink in the lifetime of our planet. We fool ourselves of permanence. Then the plates move and we are shaken.
I take one last moment, a gulp of mountain air, leave the thrush and the woodpile and head in for breakfast and that which must be faced – the office and conformity, the self consciousness that like a blade cuts us from the fundamental, awesome matrix of existence.
Or maybe I will first write to you about a bird and what it means to me.