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.