Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Thrushes Arrive

The last light shimmers sideways among the pink-pluming grasses bent to the northeast, glancing along silvered knife-edged iris leaves. The last bee bumbles along the stalk of a fringe cup tinged with coral. The air dances with clouds of gnats sparkling one last time as the mountain rises between the sun and us all. Into this full-blown Spring world Thrush arrives on this particular day--not yesterday, not tomorrow--its song spiraling up and away into the nightening air growing heavy with the damp that rises after sunset from the fresh green.
When I first heard Thrush's song, I was dumbfounded. I'd never heard the song before, or at least been in the right woods at the right time. Once you've heard the song, you can't not know it. The beauty of the song surpasses "pretty", "sweet" or "melodious", goes straight through "beguiling" and "ethereal", to where I am only left with "divine". Divine as in the romantic poets' sense of the quality of something so utterly itself, unfiddled with,unspoiled, as it was first spoke into being. And divine in the sense that something can still exist in this world in that way.
During the day Thrush sings pieces and variations of its song, crystalline shards dropped amongst the earthy mosaic of songs and drumming of other birds. But at dusk it all comes together in that long ascending spiral of something so rarely heeded in this world, "proof" I'll call it, of something outside our ken--the More, the Other. Hearing this song as the world transitions from day to night I feel like a window has opened on the new heaven and new earth--it's really there after all.
Thrush belts out this perfection of song exuberantly, over and over again in an extravagant repeat of "I am here in my now, I am in my place in my world, go and sin no more"--or as Thoreau would say it, "Live deliberately". The song sings from the middle of May until the middle of July as Thrush defines his home space for courting and nesting. Then no more Thrush-opera, and they leave for winter in Central America.
Listen one evening(or preferably many) in the thrush's home turf. Just like trying to grasp and truly understand anything, you need to take in the whole package--the song, the venue, the audience, the smells, the shadows, the light--a bird call tape doesn't cut it. Just listen, and it will all become plain and clear as the nose on your face--and then you're hooked.


cyndy said...

I've not heard Swainson's (I call him Bicknell's), however, I have both the Hermit and the Wood Thrush that sing to me. Divine is the right word. Frank Chapman writes:

"His calm restful song rings through the woods like a hymn of praise rising pure and clear from a thankful heart. It is a message of hope and good cheer in the morning, a benediction at the close of day. The flutelike opening notes are an invitation to his haunts, a call from Nature to yield ourselves to the ennobling influences of the the forest."

"Come to me!"

wyldthang said...

Hi cyndy, that's a great quote, thanks so much for adding it here!

Dave said...

We had a Swainson's singing here a couple of mornings on migration, and I was lucky enough to hear it. What a treat! We do have plenty of wood thrushes here, but it's always nice to hear the others. Hermit thrushes and veerys nest at higher elevations, within a 50-minute drive of here - I try and make the pilgrimage a couple times each summer.

waterwitch said...

Wonderful. I first heard Swainson's at Camp Sealth on Vashon Island near Seattle when I was 18. I was entranced, literally. I stood absolutely still, holding my breath, unable to believe what I was hearing. I still rejoice, 40 years later, when I'm lucky enough to be in Thrushland and get to hear it.

Canyon Wren is another unearthly glorious song, but on a descending scale.