This morning, bicycling to share an early breakfast with a very good friend I was a few minutes early, so I pedaled along a probably 2/10ths of a mile section of a rail trail in downtown Lowell. Just off of Merrimack Street, the major downtown transecting urban way. On the roof of an abandoned, I think former auto dealer, just along the entry to this mini trail a high trill beckoned me, her song beautiful as the Sirens’ who called to Odysseus, enticed me to veer from my entry to the trail to pedal on the broken pavement, up a granite curb, between links of a rusting chainlink fence, and to stand in 6:50 AM sun looking for the best way to see, and yet still hear. I lost sight of her briefly, but her song, more a breath than a voice, kept me close. I don’t know what she was. Small, no more than 5 inches, light brown head, but I could not see below her neck, nor could I see whether her eyes were ringed or not. Was she a warbler, vireo, sparrow? Among each of them are sweet voiced singers, but whisperers, breathers? I am mystified as much as I was enchanted.
She sat back, and was now out of sight, so I returned to my intended river hugging route of two tenths of a mile. I saw red wing blackbirds, grackles, yellow warblers, a mallard flying overhead, then a slew of mallards or maybe black ducks congregating at an eddy in the Concord River below me, near the Middlesex Fall. I saw a robin. I saw a warbler. I was just about at the end of the path, and happy, when whoosh a long grey wing sliced the air below to me and to my left. I turned full face toward that disturbance in my sight line. Ahh, a great blue heron rising silently from the rocks and rushing waters directly below me. I was happy, and as she began to move beyond my viewshed and I began to continue my way,whoosh, a second great blue rises across the river, invisible in her stillness and grayness against the granite stone and drooping willows, until opening her wings and rising this slender study in blue, grey, green, white, struck by orange beak and calves. There was no time nor dexterity nor desire to find and wield my phonecamera. I just sighed with delight.
The greys of these birds like the rocks among which they stand for hours, the touch of blue like the sky reflected in the waters in which they are vigil, the green waters of their feathers, tse orange sun bringing life to the green algae, leaves, grasses, shoots, stems, all which breathe out refreshed what they had inhaled, and send to Merrimack Street, and Davidson Street, and Central and Bridge Streets, and the adjacent commercial buildings, manufacturing buildings, educational buildings, residences, fresh air, fresh, fresh air. The waterfalls and rapids so audible on hand, auditorially absent 20 feet along Merrimack Street, yet not personally absent, only no longer heard among horns, rubber tires coursing asphalt pavement, humans and their burdens pursuing our lives, able to because the water runs, the trees leaf, the grasses feed, the air thermals up and dives down and moves along–each pushing, transforming, transporting, removing particles upon particles left in our wake. Enabling us to be awake and not waked, for another day, and another.
I am waxing and I am waning as I write this post. I am hearing that small brown bird. I am shivering at the two great blue herons. I am remembering the five turkey vultures I watched group mid air and then swoop down and roost on a barn roof in Westport, Massachusetts, and the twelve turkey vultures swooping to behind a Provincetown sand bluff and congregating and conversing and then swooping up and away again, one at a time each in her own direction some over the sea and some overhead and some toward the bay, and, this past weekend up on a small beach on a small lake in New Hampshire, seven ducklings (oh, maybe teenage ducks) preening and chortling while we watched. I am remembering a three hour conversation with my friend this morning wandering across all the places our lives range this year, this month, these days, wandering with gratitude that there is never nothing to learn.