Cheep that tune

THERE is a bird in my neighborhood that sings exactly half a tune that I happen to know. Whenever I hear it, if I possibly can, I go outside and whistle the other half back to him. We carry on like that sometimes for five minutes. I've often wondered what we say to each other because we do communicate, there's no doubt about that. Asserting territorial claims? Maybe, but somehow that idea seems to me less a subject for beauty than business.

One day we were calling back and forth to each other when I heard rustling behind me. Looking around, I saw a Carolina wren peeping at me through the shubbery not five feet away. As I finished my turn, that tiny creature suddenly burst into magnificent sound.

At that moment, a cardinal flew up to a nearby pine branch and immediately joined in, his voice clear and bright as raindrops in sunshine. For a few precious moments, then, the four of us simply stayed put and deliberately sang together. Or conferred.

I find it hard to believe that we were merely discussing territory, but I could be wrong. After all, birds have mundane concerns too. Maybe the problem is that I have never heard of property lines being talked over in the language of praise.

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