The ruckus of the birds

It’s the season for sleeping with open windows – even as the dog days begin – and waking to the sound not of an alarm clock but of birdsong. When I carried the burden of more outer commitments, I’d turn to the television for an early news and weather report. Had another act of terrorism occurred? How is rush-hour traffic? Will it rain? Once I opened the door to all that, there was little attention of quality left for inner commitments. I was lost, and there was no going back to the precious gifts of early morning: the freshness of deep stillness and simple being. Even prayer time was more distracted, labored, less satisfying.

It has been a long time since I awakened to the sound of an alarm clock or the early news. Now it’s the song of birds that welcomes me to wakefulness, and giving attention to their song has become my first prayer. According to Rami Shapiro, “Living in this world with full attention is the essence of prayer.” The trees are my minaret, birdsong the call to prayer. Kim Stafford writes of it in her poem, “Oregon Dawn in Spite of the News,” from Singer Come from Afar (Pasadena, Calif.: Red Hen Press, 2021).

Before I can get to the day’s statistics—so
many stricken, so many dead—I’m summoned
by the birds raising a ruckus outside, crows
and jays in festive outrage, chirr and aria

from the little brown birds, the mournful
dove, the querulous towhee, rusty starlings
in their see-saw mutter, and a woodpecker
flicker hammering the gutter staccato.

On the porch, I’m assaulted by the merciless
scent of trees opening their million flowers
as I inhale the deep elixir of hazel, hawthorn,
maple, and oh those shameless cherry trees.

And just when I’ve almost recovered
my serious moment, I gasp, helpless to see
the full queen moon sidling down
through a haze of blossoms.

Both night and day, darkness and light, sleeping and waking are of God, of this creation. I’m grateful for the birdsong that welcomes me into each new day.

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