A Song to Sing
This last week the birds have been especially active and ever-present, flitting about in the trees and flying over the moorland and fields. I was speaking to a friend on the phone one afternoon while taking a break outside, and he commented on the evident bird activity and song going on in the background.
Flocks of geese are in the fields honking away. Whenever they fly overhead in their ‘V’ formation their wing flight sounds like a deep and solid whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.
Curlews drift back and forth over the grasses and moors with their beautiful and haunting calls.
The pheasant emits a truncated version of a rooster’s crowing and flutters to a new spot in the brush every now and then.
A single northern lapwing cuts an unusual line in the blue expanse above, emitting a ‘pee-wit, pee-wit' sound unlike any other bird call I know.
And a variation of small birds - starlings, wrens, thrushes, robins, meadow pipits, chaffinches - join together, filling the air with chatter and a bright medley of song
To add to that, the swallows have returned a week earlier than usual! I saw evidence of them at the old mill by the bay. How exciting!
The First Swallow
The gorse is yellow on the heath,
The banks with speedwell flowers are gay,
The oaks are budding, and, beneath,
The hawthorn soon will bear the wreath,
The silver wreath, of May.
The welcome guest of settled Spring,
The swallow, too, has come at last;
Just at sunset, when thrushes sing,
I saw her dash with rapid wing,
And hailed her as she passed.
Come, summer visitant, attach
To my reed roof your nest of clay,
And let my ear your music catch,
Low twittering underneath the thatch
At the gray dawn of day.
- Charlotte Smith -
Photo by RSPB
Upon the Swallow
This pretty bird, O! how she flies and sings, But could she do so if she had not wings? Her wings bespeak my faith, her songs my peace; When I believe and sing my doubtings cease.
- John Bunyan -
One day this week, coming back from a walk, I happened to notice a very tiny bird lying on the path to the house. It had obviously been deceived by the reflection in the car window and died soon afterwards. I felt so sad and picked it up. What a beauty. I had never seen this one up close before and was stunned by the intricacy. It was a gold crested wren, and so light. I put it on a ledge and went inside, thinking about that beautiful small creature.
When I was young, I used to find dead birds in the garden, fallen from trees, or attacked by another animal. Every time I found one I would bury it in a little plot that I had designated for birds and small creatures that had died. There are probably at least 10 small winged souls in that cemetery.
On returning back inside I went to the bookshelf and grabbed one of the bird books to look up the wren. I saw that while one of the smallest birds in the UK - only 9cm in length and the weight of a 20 pence coin - they collectively produce a high-pitched shrill, a type of “zi-zi-zi”, which can dominate the morning chorus. Knowing that now, saddens me more, to realise that one down may mean less of a chorus, esp if it is one of the few nesting nearby.
The Gold-Crested Wren
When my hand closed upon thee, worn and spent
With idly dashing on the window-pane,
Or clinging to the cornice — I, that meant
At once to free thee, could not but detain;
I dropt my pen, I left the unfinish’d lay,
To give thee back to freedom; but I took —
Oh, charm of sweet occasion! — one brief look
At thy bright eyes and innocent dismay;
Then forth I sent thee on thy homeward quest,
My lesson learnt — thy beauty got by heart:
And if, at times, my sonnet-muse would rest
Short of her topmost skill, her little best,
The memory of thy delicate gold crest
Shall plead for one last touch, — the crown of Art.
- Charles Tennyson Turner -
Do birds mourn? I think they do. I recall a baby crow falling from a maple tree in the front garden of my childhood home in Ontario once. All that day I watched the other crows cawing and calling out mournfully from the tree, and as a young girl, I remember crying with them at their precious loss.
'Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care.' (Matthew 10:29, NIV Bible)
This weekend, on a stunning and clear sunny day, the moving funeral service was held for Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. As the BBC commentator said, it was a funeral so powerful in its simplicity.
A man of great fortitude, Prince Philip was, and is, a symbol of strong character, steadiness, loyalty and faith. He died a couple of months before his 100th birthday. What a life, what a legacy. And however long the life of a loved one, whose years portray a 'good score' (as some might say), it does not lessen the feeling of deep loss and the rawness of grief, domestically and globally.
The whole ceremony was very moving. I found the piper's song at the end of the service especially stirring as he walked through a stone corridor in Westminster Abbey towards the arched doorway into the light, while Prince Philip's coffin was being lowered.
It makes me proud to be in Scotland.
Prince Philip loved this country. He sang his own individual and sure song, which will be remembered always.
What is our unique song? How can we express it and build on it? How shall we inhabit the place where we live, and for the years that we are blessed with?
‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers – That perches in the soul – And sings the tune without the words – And never stops – at all …
- Emily Dickinson -