Four am comes to me silently some mornings; I wake to an unknown rhythm, realize I’m up for the day, slip out of our warm bed leaving my lover as silently as possible, to grind the coffee – my first ritual of the day.
I check outside to find the mainland hidden by fog and the still air of the morning, damp in a way only an island can experience. It’s quiet out there, too early for the birds, too early for the ferry crew to warm up the engines for another day of connecting us to Canada.
Teeth brushed, a facecloth introduced, and a pass on shaving make my too-early morning acceptable for this writerly morning.
Coffee beeping, I haul a mug out to our front porch where the first birds are stirring. A few single songs trill out like those very first notes that identify famous symphonies. I recognize the song of my brilliant Cardinal in the tall maple tree to the east, he lives up there commanding the rest of the chorus and this morning he’s choir master, conductor and instigator. I’m a big fan of his singing and this morning he’s in fine voice.
And with those first few notes, the morning pre-dawn chorus starts in its full throated, spring-is-in-the-air glory. Hundreds of birds greet the light and I only recognize a few. My Cardinal of course, the raw croak of our Raven on the other side of the property getting in a few notes as if he knows he has to get his voice in there before he’s overwhelmed. A “who-wah, whooo, whooo” from each side of the property let’s me know our owls are still awake and I’m soon surround-sounded by several sections of owl-bass laying down a beat for the rest of the choral ensemble.
But then the soprano section rolls out their overwhelming chorus of melody lines. Hundreds if not thousands of birds in the surrounding trees take their cues from their leaders letting loose what sounds at first-listen to be a cacophony of untrained voices. But then the magic happens as they all listen to each other, find their voices, adopt a beat and the symphony begins with all voices lifting to greet a lightening sky blowing me back into the shelter of the porch by the sheer intensity and beauty of that moment. The owls laying down a beat, the Cardinal doing a soloist’s trill over top of a chorus of countless birds and my day has turned glorious. For fifteen minutes or more, coffee forgotten and chilling in my hand, I am transported to somewhere far away, somewhere magical.
But, having greeted the day, the birds get on with their business and while the songs never stop until dusk, the tone has changed, the joy is gone and we’re down to the business of communicating. The mainland starts to waken as I hear a motorcycle unwind down the shore-road – the sound of its revving motor carried across the sluggish channel on the still, foggy air. In another few minutes the ferry engines will turn over and the island will come to motion instead of song. And life will move forward for both the birds and ourselves – as it has and will. My words will flow but for this moment, this moment-just-passed, I lived magic. I felt those songs somewhere deep within me where the city does not dwell and I soared with them.