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The Dawn Chorus

The Dawn Chorus

It begins in shades of silver and stone, while our eyes are still shuttered and our subconscious minds are climbing mental monkey bars. Somewhere deep within us, we know it’s time to begin the transition toward morning, but we hesitate … our brains arguing like little children at the playground, “Just a few more minutes, please?”

Outside the window, the orchestra is warming up. Lead chair Tree Sparrow sets the tone, gaily chirping its recognizable, yet impossibly complicated, song, and construction supervisor Downy Woodpecker adds a funky downbeat. In the distance, Pheasant crows en route to his breakfast buffet by the western hedgerow. Mourning Dove adds her voice, along with Chickadee and the tiny House Wren. There’s the usual gossip: who’s migrating, who’s mated for life … ancient conversations that never get old.

The alarm blast from Crow silences them all, at least temporarily, and sets off the chain reaction: Dog rolls over with a sigh; Cat purrs softly and stretches a paw to pat against my cheek; I return from Dream Park to Real Time. Let the day begin.

Sun is deciding whether to burst through the cloudbank or stay huddled in the midwinter blanket and catch a few more zzz’s. He has a job to do, but these days are still shorter and his motivation just isn’t there. I feel you, Sun.

I open the curtains and see the barren field where Canada Goose Gang, the mob that settled into the cornfield, held their late-fall negotiations. Was it time? Not yet. How about now? No, not yet. Now? No. Now? A V-formation pattern had appeared in the east, followed in rapid succession by a dozen more, creating a rather simplistic alphabet-soup sky. They all used the cornfield landing strip, temporarily displacing their buddies and creating a cacophony of bird-bluster.

That was the liveliest Field had been in a long time. The drought that struck most of the country last summer was particularly hard here. Cloud was missing but Sun continued to shine, so Corn naturally responded with record-low production. In September, Farmer collected the disappointing harvest, occasionally missing a few stalks and creating large troughs between the rows. Rain came, too late for that year but necessary for the water table beneath the field. Water had pooled in the trenches, and the geese took full advantage of the bar-bath combo.

Near the small pond to the north, I can see Buck nibbling on wild Viburnum. I’m glad he’s taking a break from poor October Glory Maple in the front yard. Curly Willow has taken a beating, too. Those budding antlers were scratchy, I’m sure, but really, was it asking too much that he sharpen them on any of the trees on our nine acres EXCEPT for the six ones we bought to landscape the lawn?

I slip on a sweater and make my way to the kitchen to brew some Lemon Balm tea. Last year’s drought wreaked havoc on my flower garden, but Lemon Balm thrived, as in, took over. Herbs don’t seem to mind the dry air, unlike fussy Petunia, whose high-maintenance ways sealed her doom. Catnip held its own, but if I bring that in the house, my feline companions stalk my tea mug and kidnap the strainer.

Dog and I curl together near the window to listen to the Dawn Chorus. It intensifies as the Altostratus Cloud section opens and Sun makes his grand entrance. A childhood memory arises of a little girl in a yellow dress and white shoes. She’s leaning against her father’s hip, hymnal perched on the light oak railing. They sing:

This is my Father's world, and to my listening ears all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres. This is my Father's world: I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; his hand the wonders wrought. This is my Father's world, the birds their carols raise, the morning light, the lily white, declare their maker's praise. This is my Father's world: he shines in all that's fair; in the rustling grass I hear him pass; he speaks to me everywhere.

Yes, let the day begin.

Dad passed away in September 2016. He instilled in me a profound respect for all things in the natural world, and my path to certification as a Forest Therapy Guide certainly began at a young age under his influence.

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