It’s times like this that I wish I had the facility with words to describe the moment without resorting to tired clichés. As I stand near the back pond, the sun is just rising behind me, its first light striking tree tops of the bush opposite. Through one corner of the trees I can see the neighbour’s bush across the road. Because it sits on a hill, it is completely lit like the bright corner of an otherwise brooding painting. The shadows of the morning lie everywhere below the line created by the advancing sun.
In the quiet morning air a red tailed hawk cruises the back field in search of field mice. This bird thinks he owns the place. He sits up in one of the tall elms in the middle of the farm watching the smaller birds that come to our feeder about two hundred metres away. I wish he would settle for mice and leave the birds alone. As it is he is a far better mouser than our cats.
The air holds a profound stillness as the sun lights the whole forest now. A few weeks ago, when the coloured leaves were still on the trees this sight was pretty spectacular. Even today with most of the leaves gone this moment still holds my attention.
A small group of song sparrows are playing in a nearby apple tree. They really do have a pretty song, not as complex as a bobolink but quite sweet. They also have a great sense of play.
A couple of years ago I was disturbed while working in the yard by a scratching sound coming from the barn. What I saw there was extraordinary. About a dozen sparrows had lined up and were chatting along the roof ridge of the barn. The one at the end stepped up to the edge of the roof and slid sideways down the gable making the scratching noise that I had heard. When it got to the bottom it flew up to the back of the line. Then the next bird stepped forward to do the same slide.
I stood fascinated as this organized play continued with no one butting into line and no one tiring of the game. Finally my attention span broke sending me back to work. As I worked, however, I continued to hear them chatting and scratching along the roof. This game struck me as extraordinary because I had never considered sparrows as being capable of creating complex games. Perhaps had I paid more attention to swallows swooping in perfect close formation to catch insects I would have been more prepared for this. Even so, this was a pure game, being played strictly for fun not for food. It had rules that every player followed. It obviously created enough enjoyment that no one wanted to leave.
Now this morning the sparrows in the apple tree are hopping from branch to branch as they sing. I haven’t yet established whether there is a pattern to their hopping, maybe not; or maybe the rules are just too difficult for me to grasp. Certainly they understand them. There seems to be no break in the rhythm of their jumps. Maybe this is their way of celebrating the coming of morning.
Gosh, while I’ve been standing here the sun has risen, turning morning frost into a sea of sparkles. Jamie and Molly evidently having tired of chasing one another and rolling in the frosted grass have come to lie down nearby. They’re very patient with me on mornings such as this one.
So you see my problem as I walk back over sun bathed fields, dogs at my side. Words that allow me to describe the dawn provide poor access to the moment. They paint a picture that hangs in a dark room. I guess if you really want to feel the moment, there is no match for being there. I do recommend it. See you next time.