Night singer

mitrewort

Every time I go outside to look at the moon, I hear a ghostly twittering in the treetops. Birds, or flying squirrels? I shine a flashlight all around, but don’t catch a reflection from any mammalian eyes. I switch it off. My brother’s silver truck glows like the belly of a fish.

When I wake up in the wee hours, the catbird is singing voluably, lustily — as if it were broad daylight. Mockingbirds do this too, I know, but catbirds? Perhaps this one has a bit of actual cat in him. I shut the window and put my earplugs in.

In the morning, the new leaves on the trees seem twice as large as they did yesterday. But why shouldn’t they? Given how warm it was last night, they surely didn’t stop growing just because the sun went down.

Could it be that the catbird’s singing is somehow necessary to the growth of the leaves — that he sings them into being? I play with this idea just long enough for it to pass from absurdity into possibility.

But to listen to a catbird — or one of its cousins, the brown thrasher or the mockingbird — is to realize that spring itself is fundamentally improvisational. The trees, too, are making it up as they go along.

tulip trees with new leaves

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

5 Comments


  1. I really like that idea, that birds sing the forests into leaf. The rich, complicated foliage of the Carolinian forest would need mimid-call blueprints, sort of like those foot-step dance charts but for sound.

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  2. What I like about this writing is its affirmation (for me) that if we can believe it, it can be true – for however long. Lovely writing.

    Reply

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