The color and choruses of the birds define the days’ beginning and the ebbing dusk.

Suddenly, it seems, with the warmer weather and the occasional days of sun, many populations of birds are back at work: robins, jays, sparrows, swallows, nuthatches, finches. I see tiny forms ticking in the forest, an unexpected flickering on the side of a birch, a fluttering that does not quite fit with the as-yet unleaved oaks.

The singers have returned.

They are almost invisible still, songbirds restless with the search for food and mates and nests. But now and then, larger individuals of other species – a pair of pileated woodpeckers, a trio of jays, a family of crows, a lone marsh hawk – will cut across the canopy, sometimes silently, sometimes with cacophony but always bearing the same message: Seasons change, the treetops shudder and creatures of air and land, water and sandy shore are on the move.

I do not remember when I have last seen so many goldfinches, cascading like tiny suns in the low branches of trees in the margins of the forest where the dog and I reside. The chickadees have been evident for weeks, their lively call one of the first to emerge as mud time turned the forest floor into necessary worlds for salamanders and turtles.

But spring will be gone in the blink of an eye, I know; this is New England, and the long, harsh winter that left so much exhaustion in its wake encroached on the territory of time signified by the plumping of pussy willow catkins, the wetlands of skunk cabbage, the expectation of the season’s ephemeral wildflowers.

Last week the yard was an unkempt gesture at civilization in the wild, all matted grasses and weeds, broken briar and the uneven ground of the frozen swells that held on for months. Then overnight, the violets appeared, hundreds of them scattered through the untidy grass and decomposing leaves, as though a single announcement for flowering had been given and obeyed.

Mornings now, we wake to early light or bright sun probing through the bedroom window like a searchlight’s beam. But I am so starved for blue skies and full sun that I accept early rising as a small price to pay for a gentler greeting beyond the door.

Still, the birds embark on the day long before I wake, and it is their chatter that stirs me from sleep as often as the insistent rays of the spring sun. I am so winter-sodden even now, in May, that the backdrop of my consciousness is stalled in the muffled, mute flat line of the winter woods.

As a result, every morning and evening, the sound of nature – especially the choir of birds – astonishes me. The fluid trills, the complex imitations, the single note sung over and over with a monotony that peals like hope in the landscape – these are the summons that stop me, mid-stride, as I go about the familiar business of the day, walking to the shed for a rake, ripping rugs from the line or scattering cinnamon along the cabin’s foundation to counter the impending assault of ants.

This stopping for such arresting consonance is the cooperation of natural phenomena with human imagination, and the surging spring is the moment for gratitude and joy in all these correspondences that turn and return: the migration of birds and their calls, the green shoots that lift themselves like surprise from the earth and await the hum of insects to fertilize them, the startling sight of stick nests and mud architecture accompanied by a stirring in the eaves. With all these half-forgotten, recoverable signs, life goes on.

The birds go about their business, more secretive than in winter, now that mating and nesting are at hand. Raucous calls announce territories and defense, the possibility of warring intentions. The languages of bird species reflect communication, caution and continuation of one generation to the next.

We, the human shadow over the land, remain as ever, so burly and bold in our dominance over things that we often seem to be noise machines or the creation of sound itself – rattling and banging, erupting in every environment we cross. Our response in longing for silence, the desire for quiet, is the striking counterpoint to human industry and the dizzying speed of daily life.

The practice of meditation and centering prayer, of calming visualization and the repetitive lullaby of ritual, are embraced by more people than ever before in modern times. Escaping our own clamor is one common contemporary pilgrimage, propelling us into our vanishing wild lands, to our converted monasteries, on pilgrimages to literal or internalized deserts.

But for a few weeks, before summer builds to its crescendo, the songs and cries, warbles and trills, of birds will be the boundary of silence for me. I am not searching for a sonic void but the celestial voices of those with wings, the pealing of peeper frogs, the rustling of crickets or the click of the grasshopper soaring, even a bullfrog’s broken cello chord, to remind me of the music and mystery, memory and meaning, of the heavenly spheres expressed on Earth for one more season.

I will keep my eyes and heart open. I will listen with ears and soul. May these insignificant, essential sounds ring out. Let them toll on until those who stride on two legs listen; let them be heard forever.

Everywhere miracles – and messages – drift in the air. Hear them and take heart. These gifts come daily, and deliver the weary world from itself, to rise with each natural call and with every given day.

North Cairn can be reached at 274-0792 or at:

[email protected]

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