Pileated Woodpecker
Picture of Janet


A Morning for Birds

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Laying on my squeaking air mattress, I was wide awake, had been for at least an hour.

And its THAT hour, that long hour before the sun finally starts to come up over the horizon far enough to turn black night to purple early dawn.

As soon as I saw the lightening sky I got up as quietly as I could, padded back to where Mother was asleep and gently snoring, to get a bathrobe.

This fall day, an hour away from Houston, was going to be less humid, more autumnal like, a sweet pleasant chill in the morning air as I stepped outside to look at the silhouette the trees were making to the East.

Covering my robe around my ankles and zipping it up to my neck, I slid behind the wheel of the little red electric cart and decided to see who else was up on the farm.

Yesterday the sun had warmed the earth, heating the soil and in the night as cooler wind from the north had brought this pleasant chill of night to the gulf coast, a layer of cooler night air lay all over the pasture; in the small little valleys near the lake and on the lake, a fine, misty layer of fog spread ephemeral over little mice that were beginning to stir.

It was beautiful.

Quietly navigating through the dewed grass, I got to the top of the first hill and stopped, just to listen. A million bird calls filled the air. No other sounds, no cars, no people, no trains or buses, just a cacophony of birds welcoming this cool fall morning. I don’t know much about birds, but I spent the next few moments with my eyes closed trying to distinguish the creatures that were sharing this early morning with me.

There was the loud caucus of big black crows, strident and discordant.  I know them. They are constant farm companions, always sounding as if going about their day is about creating racket. If crows had souls, I believe they would be in a constant state of complaint. That’s how they sound.  

Far back in the woods to the west, near the brush lined fence row, I could hear the Carolina wrens, calling to one another over distance and trees.

An old owl, hooting his way home after his long night of hunting, sounded tired.

I didn’t hear the pileated, but opened my eyes in time to see him, that woodpecker as he swooped across the sky and landed in the spooky old dead tree closest to the pond. Not until he started hunting that is. I watched as he grasped the trunk of the tree, hanging perpendicular, angling to begin his rapid drilling into the bark. RATTTATTTATTT. I heard his beak against the bark, drilling for bugs. I am not fifty yards from him and his head is big enough that I can the see the jackhammer action. A silly thought as I watch him, do birds get headaches?

Much, much less would do it for me, forget if my job in life was to beat my head against a tree.  He’s beautiful.

There is the sound, that shrill piercing sound,  that always seems to have a sense of aloneness to me, of a bird of prey of some kind. It’s not my fereginous hawk, the one who I have watched lovingly soar on thermals above the farm since February. Bob has told me hesitantly just last night, he had seen the huge bird laying on the side of the road last week, his feathers beautiful still but stilled from flight, always now.  I didn’t see him, a scavenger had already claimed the bounty by the time I got here. This was another kind of hawk, searching for food or mate, mastering the air, playing in it, as I would hear him over my left shoulder at one minute and then far to my right the next.

Smaller birds, with songs of morning, too many and varied for me to distinguish were filling the air now. It was a sweet symphony, discordant at times but full and beautiful and varied. The truth of this moment dawns on me. Birds sing morning songs no matter where you are if there are trees and sunrise, but you will never know it, if you don’t make the time and place to hear it. It’s like a lot of things in life or at least the way we live life, sometimes to get the most out of why we are here, means making things simple and still. 

The sun is full warm and bright behind the trees now, the dew is leaving and the silky fog is disappearing before my eyes. I bet someone else is up and brewed some coffee in the old farm house. The moment is over. But I got it, Lord. Be still and know who you are. 

Happy Monday. 

Bible verse of the day: Be still, and know that I am God. Psalms 46:10

Poem for the week:  

To The Cuckoo

O BLITHE New-comer! I have heard,
I hear thee and rejoice.
O Cuckoo! shall I call thee Bird,
Or but a wandering Voice? 

While I am lying on the grass
Thy twofold shout I hear,
From hill to hill it seems to pass,
At once far off, and near.

Though babbling only to the Vale,
Of sunshine and of flowers, 
Thou bringest unto me a tale
Of visionary hours.

Thrice welcome, darling of the Spring!
Even yet thou art to me
No bird, but an invisible thing,
A voice, a mystery;

The same whom in my school-boy days
I listened to; that Cry
Which made me look a thousand ways
In bush, and tree, and sky. 

To seek thee did I often rove
Through woods and on the green;
And thou wert still a hope, a love;
Still longed for, never seen.

And I can listen to thee yet;
Can lie upon the plain
And listen, till I do beget
That golden time again.

O blessed Bird! the earth we pace
Again appears to be 
An unsubstantial, faery place;
That is fit home for Thee!

William Wordsworth

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