“Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.” –Rabindranath Tagore
It is typically during the seventh hour of the day at some point in February, when there is a noticeable shift in the time the sun rises, that I become aware of their return. Upon first hearing their growing morning melodies, while walking into the school in which I am an educator, their sweet sounds encourage me that winter will not last forever. With the arrival of March, there is a gradual shift in the start of their chorus as it begins earlier like the daylight. As March melts into April, and April fades into May, their symphonious soundings continue to advance, in sync with the brightening of the sky. Softly their voices appear, as darkness begins lifting its veil, until the cacophony of their songs reaches full crescendo with the rising of the sun.
“Birdsong brings relief
to my longing.
I am just as ecstatic as they are,
but with nothing to say!
Please, universal soul, practice
some song, or something, through me!”–Rumi
As one who rises well before dawn, but does not necessarily enjoy such premature risings, I do, nonetheless, appreciate the moments before the brightening of the sky: birdsong. These hopeful melodies, it seems to me, offer praise and thanksgiving for the arrival of the new day. Birds sing regardless of the temperatures, whether there is frost or dew on the ground, or whether there is a bitter bite of the wind or the air is utter stillness. Their animated voices echo among and around the hills of our area, playing a sort of hide and seek with the give and take of the various songs of each species.
I once read that because King Solomon understood what the birds were saying in their chirpings, they often remained near him. Supposedly, St. Francis’ presence was so calm and reassuring that songbirds frequently alighted upon his shoulders. While I am not sure that either of these accounts are much more than lore, they are certainly lovely images to contemplate in the midst of a morning birdsong performance.
This year, it seems to me that the birdsong of sunrises is a metaphor not only signifying the arrival of spring, but also life after the pandemic–at least for those of us fortunate enough to live where those affected by COVID seem to be decreasing. Like a great collective exhalation, the birds’ songs reflect the hope and freedom that is life after quarantine. The freedom for humans to flit, flutter, and fly from place to place, as if riding on the wings of these birds, seems as welcome as the spring weather. Of course, I would not yet throw caution to the wind, but it does seem, at least for now, the worst is behind us.
This weekend, for the first time in months, I met a friend, and we walked together on a local walking path. In spite of the early morning chill, the give and take of conversation while exercising felt as victorious as the first blossom of crocus emerging through a crust of white snow in late February or early March. As we walked and talked, birds offered a euphonious soundtrack, better than any store muzak, as they chattered, called, and chirped from limbs, lines, and landscape, tilting their small heads this way and that; our great guardians of the walk.
As the birds awakened my later weekend slumberings on the morning of this writing, I couldn’t help but wonder, as I wiped the sleep out of my eyes, at the birds’ optimism. Even in the darkest days of quarantine, those harmonious fowls kept up their song. In fact, they never ceased, not for one day. No matter the restrictions, the overwhelm, the confusion, and the fear that existed among the human population, especially in the early stages of the pandemic, the birds held fast to their habit of daily, lyrical praise.
There is a scientific theory loosely held by a few scientists that the songs of birds, especially in the early dawn hours, vibrate at an ideal frequency to promote plant growth and yield. It is theorized that when exposed to bird song, the stomata–the mouth-like opening found on the bottoms of leaves–open wider. This widening allows for a greater exchange of air–expelling more oxygen–and also permits greater absorption of water and nutrients.
I can’t help but wonder if that is what the birds are likewise trying to do for humans. In an act of Divine Instrumentation, a bird’s song is not only to aid in the growth of plants, but likewise in the swelling of the human soul. Perhaps, those songs occur, in the birth of the day, when all is fresh and renewed from a night of rest, at an optimal time to widen the human heart, providing a greater opening for an exchange and absorption of optimism and aspiration from these winged creatures.
In fact, one could think of each lifted note sung by feathered friends as a harbinger of the positive possibilities each gift of sunrise brings us–if only we allow our souls to remain open to them. Working symbiotically with the oxygen expelled from the stomata of a plant, we too, can increase our own personal growth and yield by remaining unrestricted to the promising potential each day offers. Even though the sky is still dark, the birds faithfully start their singing. We can choose to do the same.
“ . . . . Birds make great sky-circles of their freedom.
How do they learn it?
They fall, and falling,
They’re given wings.–Rumi