Letter from Birdland: Alive with the sounds of the misty prairie
In Birdland in the mist, I can hear the interstate that my bad hearing usually lets me forget.
When I do hear it on a misty morning, the sound bouncing along, echoing on tiny droplets of dew hanging in the air, I transform the sound into the surf of the sea. The prairie sea, and when I look west and north toward the highway and see the trucks sail along like they've got someplace to go, I turn them into prairie schooners.
Oh, I know they are the same trucks I follow into town to do my daily work, but from here they look just a little magical.
Or I transform them into the toy trucks my brother used to get from Uncle Francis when they still used to give premiums at the gas station for loyal customers. I was just a little jealous of those Tonka trucks, Conoco red. One of the few times I wished to be a boy.
What else do I hear? The rooster, of course, though not as merry or as bright as when we had four, the two little banties, and the big one full of bluster. My rooster is a little depressed, though he is now the cock of the rock.
I hear the hens chortling — but also the purring of mourning doves strutting around the driveway in figure eights, bobbing their heads, pecking in the gravel, until with a sudden thumping of wings they all fly up to the trees or the top of the arbor to coo and scold.
A car passes, and I hear the barking of Maggie up at my aunts' house. Their Pyrenees lets us know when anything untoward happens, like a truck passing (or stopping to deliver mail or newspapers) or a bicyclist zooming by or a jogger or another dog. Anything at all.
It's morning, and all of this is lost on me unless I put my hearing aids in. And then I feed the chickens and listen. Sometimes I can hear a bird I call "the telephone bird," which sounds just like a phone ringing in the tops of the trees. A silent hawk flies over, and if we're lucky we see it and start windmilling our arms and shouting, telling it "don't come here!"
Or sometimes the chickens will see it first, one eye cocked to the sky, and they freeze and offer a warning growl, and then everybody runs under the shade of the nearest bush.
I should make a scarecrow, though crows are not the problem.
In the spinney of woods that grew up where the old granary was, a crow lets out its guttural, trilling caw-caw-caw. And then a galloping thumping in the frozen ground as Ursula runs past. My dog races around the yard though she knows I am heading to the coop with my scoop of pellets.
The chickens are all inside this morning, and Ursula bounds ahead. She sniffs the ground, her hackles raised high. Some scent of a nighttime intruder has her worried, but I ask her, "What do you smell, Ursa?" and she turns, relaxes her bristles and wags her tail.
The hens hear my voice and come out, knowing that food is on the way. I open their door and the tawny hen is followed by an auracana, but when I lift the lid the rest of them are waiting for their breakfast. I pour their pellets, and they all hop down from the nest boxes to go see. Thump, thump, they land on the floor.
One tan egg from one tawny hen sits in the nest box. They have made a comfortable, round nest in the grass we put in there a few days ago.
The two chickens who have come out circle the coop and one runs when she sees Ursula, who makes a half-hearted lunge toward them, and they scatter, but she is more interested in pellets that may have fallen through the cracks in the coop when I poured them.
I turn and listen for more birds, more morning sounds. I hear another chirping, and then come inside to sit and write. I hear the irregular tap tapping of my keyboard.
Two orchids sit on the windowsill. They have each sent up flower stalks with several tiny buds stretching toward the light. The flowers waiting inside make no sound at all.
Hear beauty; listen for peace; blessed be.
Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. You can read more of her writings at http://www.letterfrombirdland.blogspot.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.