The human calendar gave its nod to summer this weekend, but even without the date of the solstice – June 21 – nature was announcing the season everywhere.

I felt it first not with temperatures but in the slicing flight of songbirds and hawks in the canopy of the woods behind the house. For reasons I couldn’t put my finger on, I seemed to have missed a gradual migration this year. One day the forest and meadows of the nearby farms, which had seemed isolate and secluded too long, seemed to explode with birds.

The mating phoebes were back and following their reproductive instincts; I had seen the nests being constructed in the eaves of the lean-to and shed for weeks. The ovenbirds and nuthatches began percolating in the trees, working the birches and oaks. A resident marsh hawk and crows swept through the open air of the yard several times a day, and in a few instances the great horned owl who rests deeper in the woods emerged at dusk to teach us again that not all powerful wings need produce sound.

A friend from up north along the coast reported almost daily on “her” bluebirds, which had returned to nest in the yard after a year’s hiatus. She publicized regular updates on their progress in nesting, as they chose a new bird house slightly farther out into the meadow after discovering other avian condos on the property already were occupied.

It is hard to explain how a particular bird species communicates emotion to or evokes special feelings for individual bird watchers. My friend, an artist, holds a special attachment to bluebirds in Maine and crows on Cape Cod, though she would be satisfied to see them all anywhere, anytime. They are anchors of color and attitude in a too-complicated world.

Her deep fondness for the bluebird has to do with memories of and their bright color, this year “almost indigo” in the male or the pair, she says. And unmistakeable.


The Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes the bluebird as “a small thrush with a big, rounded head, large eye, plump body and alert posture … Male Eastern bluebirds are a brilliant royal blue on the back and head, and warm red-brown on the breast. Blue tinges in the wings and tail give the grayer females an elegant look.”

That description seems apt enough – and is certainly exact for noting markings for identification in the field – but another characteristic has always captivated me. The birds’ already large eyes are emphasized by a white ring, creating an expression that suggests the bluebird regards the world with wonder.

Marvel is exactly the disposition that carries me through these still-early summer sunrises and sunsets. The temperatures at either end of the day settle like a familiar comfort over the landscape, as though at last the climate were holding us in compassionate arms. I stand on the back stoop first thing in the morning, scooting the dog into the yard before dishing up her breakfast, and, while she noses about to see whether intruders have crossed her territory overnight, I let the light wind dance around me, barely brushing my night shirt. These moments epitomize peace, the woods waking or falling into twilight, the air cool, the perfume of the earth fresh, the fragrance of mown hay wafting in.

Even the retriever seems to understand that both ends of the day are reserved for nature’s songs – which mostly come down to silence, punctuated only by a few human interruptions – the vague echo of cars speeding by on the unseen road, a screen door slamming shut, a child shouting a neighbor’s dog off the property.

But right here, where I stand, there is only the slight scuffle of gravel as the dog drags her reluctant self from the drive into the muffling grass. Or the percussion of fresh green leaves shimmering in the trees. Or an almost inaudible scratch of movement, as a small toad tries to evade the dog’s indifferent pursuit.

No sound rises from the bumper crop of raspberries forecast by the blossoms on bushes that circle the property like boundary markers.


In the emptiness of these moments, the near-world seems not vacant but full to brimming. Contentment covers every square inch of space not reserved for the business of bringing new generations of insects, birds, small mammals and wildflowers to life.

It reaches even my agitated spirit, brought home from the wider world.

But standing still and breathing deeply, I too recognize the atmosphere: It is peace.

This is the place I would occupy, if not forever, then for every second it lasts.


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