We’ve been thinking of naming our driveway that runs down over the river and through the woods, “Jaybird Street.”

The trees this spring sound more full of birds than we can remember in a long time. Jeering, purring, cross-talking, raucous blue jays are the spirits of the place to begin with. They blow through constantly randomly from summer to fall and beyond, shouting snatches of earworm tunes from the deep past. The phoebes (fee-bee, fee-bee) showed up right on time in April. Chickadees marking territories as always (deeee-de, deeee-de).

Canada geese honking overhead on the way to summer north. A couple of ducks took control of the maple-shrouded brook, of all places, quacking and flapping when we startle them. And cranky crows, the corvid cousins of the inescapable jays.

Heard but not seen are the ovenbird (tea-cher, Tea-cher, TEA-cher) who does not shut up; veeries (veers and whistles); vireos, blue-headed (one phrase up, one down) and red-eyed (longer variations on the theme); northern parula (trill); song sparrows (a whole melody for AM radio). Murmuring juncos on little pogo-stick legs. Rockin’ in the treetops all day long are the robins. They have a whole set list, and you can vividly imagine all the little birds along the driveway hopping and bopping even when you can’t see them. We love to hear the robins.

An American robin. Image courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library

This sounds hopelessly, ridiculously sentimental, I know, given the circumstances. All the world’s a tragic play. King Vladi’s bombs beating Ukraine’s towns flat; floods of carbon dioxide fast sending the atmosphere to rack and oceans to swell; you can’t avoid browntail hairs and ticks; a fiction about a stolen election tweezes cognitive hell like Borrelia burgdorferi through the whole political neurosystem. Civilization being put to the sword. And if you have your own chemo-versus-the-devil Armageddon under way in your house, the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand. It feels like a great stage curtain is about to drop on the last scene.

It can grind the life out of you. You might go to poetry for at least a momentary stay against the confusion, except that so many of the poets now think their duty is to stir up your moral hysteria. You just get tired of being challenged to think what you already think, which is that the center cannot hold.


But in the woods, there’s no such fear. In fact, the trees are full of the music you were hoping for in poetry. The song is so simple it seems foolish. But like flowers rising up on a June day and flooding your mind with a sort of opium made of light, birdsong brings relief to the longing, with nothing to say. Its cheerfulness passeth understanding. It settles in the clefts, cracks, dents and discolorations of your mind and bubbles and bounces there like sunlit breezes.

The neigh of a red-tailed hawk, a crow grouching in a hemlock tree can shake reality loose and save a day from rue. This year, the robins stole the show, outbopping the turkey vulture and the oriole. Every little swallow, every chickadee, every blue jay in the tall oak tree, exhorting one another to go bird go.

The gaiety is infectious. Woodpeckers drumming the side of the house at 5 a.m. A long-legged heron’s silent wingbeats keeping cross-rhythm overhead, like the blues in a Chinese painting. Phoebes refurbishing last year’s nest. Their philosophy is that all things fall and are built again, and they spend the whole of the cruelest month perching on the wire, twitching tailfeathers, rummaging in the tangle of willow branches, building and singing the whole time.

The whole time, i migliori fabbri of gaiety. You can hear it in their voices. The vibrations of the universe rippling like mad through their voices, amid the many wrinkles in your brain, their voices, their ancient glittering voices.

We need to get our street name changed.

Dana Wilde lives in Troy. You can contact him at [email protected] His book “Summer to Fall: Notes and Numina from the Maine Woods” is available from North Country Press. Backyard Naturalist appears the second and fourth Thursdays each month.

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