Fairy-tale Style

It is sprinkling a bit at Witham Hill Natural Area. A chorus of crows are lauding the morning at the house across the street while robins and chickadees keep the background melodic.

I start up the trail and hear a metallic drumming from the neighborhood—who is being so industrious (and inconsiderate) on a Saturday morning? I hear it again and realize it is a Northern Flicker carving out its mating territory by drumming on something metal, a chimney perhaps. What a boon metal fixtures are for the prowess of the woodpecker, a development not unlike that of the guitar amp for musicians. I walk up the hill listening for other birds and am breathing as deeply as I can; I’m finally in the woods where I have wanted to be all week.

Along the trail I hear the peeps of juncos and rustling of towhees in the undergrowth. Most of the time when I hear a bird making a ton of noise in the brush it is a Spotted Towhee, as I told Jay last weekend on our first birding walk together. We were at Finley and saw more birds from the car on the way to and from the hike than we did on foot.

Stellar Jays dominated the outing and while they are by no means an unusual sight, their luminous blue with stark black crests never get old. Neither of us were looking for a flush list, it was nice just to be out together.

Later in the day Jay read to me from Victor Emanuel’s One More Warbler, a book he picked up after learning I liked to bird. It was my favorite part of the weekend—listening to him read aloud and snuggling against the vibrating drum his body.

He reads differently than he speaks. Normally his inflections and lingo peg him as someone who smokes a lot of pot. This tempted me to leave our first date after one cup of tea, but I stayed. When he wrapped both arms around me, my heart opened up with the kind of crystalline warble that defies sense with fairy-tale style.

Our ensuing romance was bound with convenient ambiguity about just how much he smoked. It was fun to imagine Jay’s steady and grounded reading voice as the real him. That he could be coaxed out of this deep sleep with a brilliant kiss or a newfound interest in birds. My fantasy, however, only lasted a few hours before the fairy dust wore off.

The towhee, meanwhile, had hopped up on a branch and was screeing at the other towhees, maybe at the whole forest. His partner sifted through the leaves of the underbrush below and would join in absent-mindedly with soft scree like a friend who wants you to believe they’re still paying attention.

As I walk into the middle of the park I hear the songs of Pacific Wrens and then, high above me, the transcendental opera of a hidden warbler. The tune is so pure and crystalline, my whole being is drawn into its beauty. I consider the songs in my heart. I have lived as though she should sing only for the things I am meant to keep but maybe she sings for the whole forest.

A brief rain passes through; I find a lumpy old tree to sketch. While I draw the traffic noise and bird songs disappear. It is just me and the intrigue I have with the exact shape of each tree, its relationship with all its neighbors, each immersed in its own amazing tale of birdsong and fairy dust.

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