Silence is not for the birds

The early sun is slipping in around the window shades. I'm not ready to get up, so I close my eyes against it. Behind my eyelids, a filigree presents itself, like the rose window in a church but of pale gold, amber, and beige, interlaced with white. Its elegance brings an involuntary "mmm" to my lips.

And then I become conscious of a veritable symphony of bird song. As I listen, the antiphonal chirpings and cawings prevail, and the lovely vision breaks up and vanishes.

I sigh - and hear myself sigh. Why do I sigh? Why the need for sound? I listen. The birds are there, beyond the sigh. Then I move to rise and the bed creaks. I lie back and the birds are still there.

What, I think, what if I live today being conscious of bird song?

I slip on my sandals and clomp out of the bedroom. Clomp, clomp. I kick them off and go barefoot and silent. I can just barely hear the birds through the open bathroom door. Then the shower drowns them out.

When I come out to the kitchen, the clock over the sink greets me with its click, click, click. I take it down and remove the battery. The day will remain at 7:25 a.m. Then I put away last night's dishes and a dinner plate clanks against the stack on the shelf. I carelessly let a cupboard door shut with a clunk and then realize that isn't necessary. Although I replace the cutlery with utmost care, the last spoon goes into the drawer with a sharp clink.

Now the birds are shooting shrill little chirplets back and forth above the noise of the trash pickup. Do they really raise their voices? I lose them while I take egg, milk, frozen fruit, and mini ice cubes from the fridge. The ice cubes shatter like glass in the blender. I remove the cellophane bread wrapper and stuff it into the trash bag. It crackles crisply.

At last - breakfast. I can listen again. Then footfalls. The front door, below my window, squeaks. A truck comes down the street whining like a mechanical bird. Cars swoosh past the house. The birds are still twittering. I move and the raffia chair seat rustles. As the room warms up, the refrigerator starts its hum, which will come and go all day.

"Through the harsh noises of our day..." wrote Whittier. And his day had far fewer than mine. I'm barely able to silence the ones I create, let alone the 21st century's contribution.

Later, as I focus on what I'm writing, I hear only the click of the computer keys and the whir of my own thoughts. Only the shrillest of birdcalls pierces my concentration. By midmorning, however, I pause to think, and gradually I become aware of an annoying swee, swee, swee, chup, chup, chup going on in the trees. I get up and shut the window.

I've become quieter and the house is quieter and I am working more steadily. I realize that the birds' symphony, like the composer's, demands concentration. Thank you, birds, but now I need to hear my own sinfonietta.

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