Saturday, August 22, 2009

a language older than the oldest script of man

it's late august and happily
my day often begins with birdsong.

sometimes its the cooing of mourning doves,
sometimes the cawing of my friends the crows,
and some days it's the territorial imperative
of the neighbourhood robins.

goldfinches are less frequent contributors to the morning chorus,
but their distinctive voices add a nice touch.

one of my favourite writers
- mary webb -
wrote these beautiful long ago words about birdsong:

wood pigeons spoke in their deep voices
from the dark pines
across the batch -
a language older than the oldest script of man.

cuckoos shouted in the wind-riven larches,
green beyond imagining . . .

shishkin "brook in birch forest " (click on image to enlarge)


a blackbird meditated aloud in high rhapsody,
very leisured,
but very tireless,
on matters deeper than the coppice pool far below,
deep as the mystery of the chipped, freckled eggs in his nest in the thorn.

polonov "overgrown pond" (detail) (click on image to enlarge)

there's deep knowledge in their songs.
sometimes joyous, sometimes fearful,
sometimes threatening, sometimes reminding.

in the wintertime
when the birds have for the most part gone south
to keep their bodies and their heritage intact,
i miss their songs.

i miss their incredible wheeling and diving across and through the sky.
i miss the sound of the air passing through their feathers.

i miss the magical discoveries of their eggs.
cracked afterthoughts after the wonder of birth.

soon they'll start thinking about leaving.

so for now, i pay special attention to their songs.
holding them inside as i do the idea of green.
leaves, the rustling of an afternoon breeze through the trees.
the sensation of flowers.
the draping of a humid breeze across my body.
the feeling of grass under my bare feet.

(italicized words by mary webb from her novel "gone to earth".)

33 comments:

ellen abbott said...

I guess my summer heat is worth enduring since I have birds year round.

Sid Smith said...

"cuckoos shouted in the wind-riven larches, green beyond imagining . . ."

Such a simple but stunning line that is packed and brimming with information, images, triggers and associations. Oh to be able to write something a tenth as good as that!

Alaine said...

there's deep knowledge in their songs.
sometimes joyous, sometimes fearful,
sometimes threatening, sometimes reminding.

The little butcherbird can be nasty to smaller birds but he sits near our door, patiently and, if we don't come, he sings his beautiful song. 'Sometimes reminding' us he's there for a morsel.

jinksy said...

OMG! I might have known it! LOVE Mary Webb! You're more my kind of person day by day...But I wish you'd email me direct, so's I could answer back when you comment! :)

jinksy said...

Just re-read this post, and the line 'cracked afterthoughts after the wonder of birth' gave me another frisson - it's so beautiful.

Delwyn said...

Good morning Steven

I hope that you are listening to such bird song as you do your first blog check of the day...

this is another of your lovely posts that we are privileged to enjoy...

You took my favourite line for your title...so I am going to check on Mary Webb next...

Happy days Steven

Kay said...

Lovely...the birds in my garden are a constant joy and i spend rather too much time watching their antics!!! The goldfinches are my favourites though, they sweep through in a 'charm' their bright plummage sparkling..

steven said...

hi ellen, there are some birds that winter over here but not very many. you certainly notice the difference when they return!!! that's one reason why i love reading the blogs of people like yourself who live in warmer climes!!! have a creative day! steven

steven said...

sid - her writing is very "old-fashioned" in ways that i enjoy. i'll read her anytime and espcially if i'm reading something more current that carries a lot of intensity. some might find that odd - but for example when i was reading "the road" i needed to head back to a world where things were a little gentler, a little more florid, a little more romantic!!! see you. steven

steven said...

hi alaine - i don't know the butcherbird but his name - well it tells a story doesn't it!!! it's always - even with my many years on this planet - a challenge to accept the "way that nature is" even though i tell my children that's the way it is. the idea of birds attacking birds- well we all know that's their reality but it seems so unlikely doesn't it!!! have a lovely day - summer's coming!!! steven

steven said...

hello jinksy - i can't remember when i first read mary webb but i've read all of her published work i believe and i also believe that i've read it through two possibly three times! it amazes me that she hasn't risen to the same level of public awareness as hardy but then she was a woman and marginalized. still i love her writing a lot and sometimes just go in for "a nibble" when times are tough. have a lovely day. i hope your recovery is going smoothly. steven

steven said...

hi delwyn, in the morning through the summer i wake up and of course our windows are open and so i can hear the birdsong. then i drink some coffee as i check my blogs first time 'round. the windows are open so yes i hear the birdsong some more. then my daughter and i go around the neighbourhood delivering her papers. it's a special time we share together to begin our day. in-between her own birdsong i listen to the little ones and watch for the hawks way up high looking for a mousy snack!!! mary webb's writing is so beautiful delwyn, so romantic, so rich - i love it!!! i would recommend, "gone to earth", "precious bane" and "seven for a secret". have a lovely day by the river. steven

steven said...

hello kay!! next spring i hope to plant a couple of trees to make this garden a bit more bird-friendly so that the pleasure you describe in watching their antics can be appreciated in this home also. have a peaceful day. steven

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Nothing so sweet as a birdsong in summer. Thanks so much steven for sharing your love of and wonder at their heavenly calls.

steven said...

hello bonnie - you'd know as well as i do about the different kind of silence we experience in the depths of winter. it makes the return of the birds in the spring all the sweeter! have a lovely day. steven

Reya Mellicker said...

I, too, love birdsong of all kinds. We have so many birds here in the spring, it can almost be deafening. At this time of year it's mostly sparrows and crows and that clucking sound that seagulls make.

Most of the sound at this time of year here is the cicadas singing their buzzy love songs to each other.

Very cool post today, Steven. Thank you!

steven said...

hey reya, the cicadas started up her a couple fo weeks ago. a few years ago i found a dead one by the side of the road. it was about one inch long, had thick body, thick wings and a bit of an irridescent green tint to parts of its body. i'd always wondered. when i took it to show my class they didn't know what a cicada was until i gave them my impression of the song (can i call it that? mmmm hmmm i'm feeling generous this morning!) which wasn't any prettier than the cicada's song but helped them understand what it was. i didn't realize i was sharing a buggy lovesong 'till you mentioned it here!! thanks for your kind comments and have a peaceful day. steven

hope said...

In the south we have lots of birds, even more who winter here...I'll now think of them as "Steven's birds" when I feed them. :)

The Mockingbird is my favorite. Early this summer I wrote about one we nicknamed "Walter" who flies around the yard like a grumpy old man trying to keep kids off his lawn. But they are such versatile singers! We even had one who could imitate the beep on the answer machine, as it was near a window. I got up 4 times one day to check the machine, which beeped but didn't flash. The Mockingbird was sitting outside the window on the porch rail and I swear he was laughing at me. :)

Have a great weekend. I enjoy visiting here...so peaceful!

The Bug said...

One of the first things we noticed when we moved away from Cincinnati to a small town closer to the middle of Ohio is the marked increase in bird activity! Very rackety - in the best kind of way. I wrote a post about hummingbirds yesterday...

But I remember a time when loud birdsong was most UNWELCOME. My husband & I were taking a week long camping journey from Raleigh to Gettysburg & back (by car - not hiking!!). One predawn in Petersburg I woke up very reluctantly to raucous birdsong. I'm not really a morning person, & back then (about 15 years ago) even less so. I had some choice words to say about those birds LOL!

steven said...

hello hope!! i have never seen a mockingbird. so they can mimic sounds?! that's amazing. i just looked them up and i see that they can mimic insect and bird sounds - you obviously had the king or queen of all the mockingbirds if it could mimic an answering machine!! that's incredible! my dad used to tell me that when living things cross your path in any way that they are delivering a message. i think that mockingbird took that idea one step further. thanks so much for visiting. see you again soon. steven

The Weaver of Grass said...

I remember seeing the film Gone to Earth many years ago when I was young. It made quite an impression on me and a then read the novel. Thanks for reminding me of it steven.

steven said...

hello bug! hmmm i can only imagine! there are times when the crows are wayyyy too noisy for my family in the morning. time was there was a big old tree about a hundred feet from where i am sitting and the birds - flocks of them - used to love to roost in their. the noise they made was immesne. i liked it but hardly anybody else did. so the tree got chopped down. oh what a sad day that was. i see that the birds have moved location to a tree a couple hundred feet down the road! ha! keep chopping folks........ have a lovely afternoon, steven

steven said...

hello weaver . .. the version you might have seen is this one http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gone_to_Earth_(film) which was released in the early fifties. i have never seen it but now that you've drawn my attention to it (!) i think i'd better. have a lovely day in the dale weaver. steven

Linda said...

I love sitting out on the deck in the morning with my coffee playing my Haygood Hardy CD's. It's my cottage. =D As soon as the music starts... the chirping increases all around the neighbourhood... a symphony of birds! I love my songbirds. Acoustics(earful) in the summer and colour(eyeful) in the winter. The dryer just stopped, finish the packing. =D Have a lovely weekend.

Thanks for the Peterborough "good food" tips.=D

steven said...

hi linda, it's such a gift to learn how to take good care of yourself and appreciate the little things isn't it!!!! have a lovely time up here in peterborough linda!!!!
steven

Joanna said...

What a lovely post Steven, a weaving together of your words and Mary Webb's. (I've not known about her poetry before.)
I like the way the two poems fit together and the paintings too, especially that peaceful pond.
We moved further into the country three years ago and immediately noticed a big increase in birdsong. It's such a beautiful background to the early morning--even the crows.

steven said...

hi joanna, thanks for your kind comment!! the words are actually excerpted from a novel but i reorganized them to appear more like poetry - which they really are but stretched into the most gorgeous prose writing you'll likely encounter!!! i agree, the paintings are stunning and i'd dearly love to see them in person. you're so lucky to have moved to the country. it's crossed my mind at many times in my life to do just that but it hasn't happened - yet!!! have a lovely evening. steven

Pearl said...

That was very refreshing!

Pearl

steven said...

hello pearl - it's lovely to meet you!!! we aim to please and i'll passon your generous comment to the golden fish writing team who are presently immersed in dinner preparations!!! have a lovely evening. steven

Raph G. Neckmann said...

What beautiful words. I love the songs of the birds, especially rooks cawing, which I find so atmospheric.

The painting 'Overgrown Pond' is beautiful.

Also love the photos of your mother's garden.

steven said...

hello ralph and welcome!!! i actually like rooks or crows voices as well. there are times when they are too much - waking up for example - but they usually show up as friends and when i go for long bike rides i look for them and listen for them because their presence signifies a good ride. i agree, the painting of the pond is gorgeous isn't it!!! i'll pass on your compliment to my mum!!! she's a bit quiet about her handiwork but i think it's worth celebrating. thanks for visiting and for your kind comments. see you again. steven

Sixpence and a Blue Moon said...

Steven, you have such poetic soul - this is moving poetry, it definitely moves ones emotions.

To fly south with the birds would be a nice change; to remove oneself from the busyness of summer, fly away from what would be unpleasant - sounds all good to me.

I love hearing "birdsong", it gives the soul "HOPE".

Beautiful post!

xoxo

P.S. "brook in birch forest" is one serene place. Love the painting!

steven said...

oh hello sixpence!!! thankyou for your kind comments. isn't it lovely - the words mary wrote and the painting are so peaceful and inside the moment. i love the idea of flying away when it gets unpleasant. oh yes!!! but that's not the way this has been set up for us humans - well for some but not all!!! birdsong is about spring, summer and autumn for me. that and green, and trees and clouds. have a peaceful day. steven