Local NPR for the Cape, Coast & Islands 90.1 91.1 94.3
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Green leaves and bird songs

Liz Lerner

We all live our lives within routines, whether we are aware of them or not. Every morning, in my own routinized life, I eat a simple breakfast and then sip my coffee and read. For more than half the year this is necessarily done indoors, in my favorite chair, with a cat on my lap and a dog at my feet. But these summer days I move to my deck and sip my coffee there. Outside the walls of our homes, a different reality awaits, one over which we have much less control.

This early morning, as I ease into my day, I am drawn away from my book by a pair of Carolina Wrens in a nearby Black Cherry Tree. The male, I presume, is running through a series of songs. I know these are for the benefit of the female, but they have an ancillary effect on me. The songs can only be described as “cheery.” They say to me: “Don’t worry: be happy.” I listen and consider that the bird knows whereof he speaks. These wrens, after all, have surely had their own troubles. This summer’s horrific heat is certainly not optimal for the insect prey the birds need. Perhaps their first nesting attempt failed.

But their message is: in the face of all the trials and tribulations that confront us every day: sing! Perhaps even dance if you are able. Music is audible joy. These tiny birds remind me that beauty is an essential condition of existence, along with all of Life’s negative aspects. We are certainly created to enjoy life, and thus to endure it.

Beyond the bird I hear the sounds of my neighbor’s little children, the unique babbling sounds that the young of our species make. This, too, gladdens my heart. There will be a future: let’s look forward to it.

Behind my house, on the edge of the woods, an abandoned flower pot sprouted a little seedling. I watched it grow into whatever you call a tree before it becomes a sapling. It was so small and spindly that I could not even be sure what it was. As it grew, over a season or two, it took form — a cherry tree — and kept on growing. I thought earlier in the summer that it had probably exceeded what the pot could provide and with this drought it should surely be replanted. But I never got around to it. Suddenly, one day, I noticed with a shock that it was dried out and sad; all the leaves but one or two were shriveled and brown. I cursed myself for letting this happen, and, even though I thought it was a lost cause, I found a spot in the nearby woods, dug a hole in the dry dirt, planted the pathetic thing, and ran a hose from our well into it for a long time. Days went by with no changes, but this morning, after the wren’s serenade, I noticed new green leaves coming from low on the stem. Life rebounds, and finds a way.

Bird song and new green leaves: what a way to start the day!