Date: 3/18/17 6:08 pm
From: Herschel Raney <herschel.raney...>
Subject: Soundings
In the recent mornings, the first sound through the bedroom glass is the
back porch Carolina Wrens. Singing and singing at first light.
“Cheeseburger cheeseburger cheeseburger.” We have back porch and front
porch wrens. They call all day.

And thus the season is shifting. I am always glad to be present for it.
I may be happier each year. I hope to be. The frog chorus now and last
night was tremendous. The first Gray Treefrogs were sounding off in the
warmth today, separate and elevated . Up in, well, the trees. A signal
song for me. A part of my life soundtrack. What will I miss when I am
gone? It is on the list.

And the first Broad-winged Hawk aloft. I saw a hawk circling above my
car and I slowed on Military drive. Was astounded to see the Broad-wing.
And thought, surely that is early. And I found it was, back at my
trusty, highly marked up Faulkner county bird book later. Usually my
first Broad-wing is a whistle above the trees, a whistle that stops me
doing whatever I am doing. I go and trace the hawk, the first whistling
hawk. Coming from northern South America (I have seen them migrating in
masses across the Panama narrows), they average 70 miles a day heading
to be with us. This one launched early. This was a new week and new
early date for my county. Which made me immediately miss Martha Johnson.
She is not here for it now. But I would have told her about if she was.
“Martha, the hawks are back.”

Jays in pairs in the backyard. They nest there every year. I also think
I heard the Pileated Woodpeckers hammering on the tree they nested in
last year just this afternoon. The Barred Owls are calling every day in
the swamp. I call back. I have never found the nest, but their ghostly
goings in the day may have given me a hint this year. I will look in a
few days.

The first Black-and-white Warbler call. I am obsessed with finding
another nest this year. I will watch and stalk. I will sit quietly in
the leaves with my binoculars. Folded like a Zen student. I will be the
lump, the stump with odd colors.

And then this evening at dusk, which is now at 7 pm and 7:15 since the
time change: two distant dogs, a Robin in full chattery repetitious song
and then the sudden chipping-in of the first Louisiana Waterthrush.
Another signal call for me. An orienting call. The whistle of the
Broad-wing, the jumbled call of the Waterthrush: these are the things.
And after the first chips, the Waterthrush called and called every six
or seven seconds for a long time. It made me put down Raymond Carver. It
made me put on my glasses. The Pileateds crying, the Waterthrush over
and over, crows, the fading Cardinals competing in their various
directions. So much happening in my world on this warm day. The
Waterthrush always makes me stop and orient: the earth on its way around
the sun in its ellipse and its tilted angle, the solar system tilted
itself against the ply of the galaxy, the galaxy of 250 thousand million
stars. The local group of forty galaxies moving together, the Laniakea
stranding of galaxies like some mesh of spider web through dense dark
space. It is hard to pull back farther. We are nothing.

We are nothing. But this nothing has ears. And I am happy to hear the
sounds of the tilt and the roar. We ride through space and the
Waterthrush doesn’t give a damn. He just sings and sings. Trying to find
a partner one more time in this dance. I will take his happenstance
music and be grateful. And the Waterthrush, well, he will just make more
Waterthrushes for me soon. And some days, just being the one who guards
over the place that he does this, well, that is far more than enough for
me. Far more than I should have been given.

I am grateful. At the start of my 58^th vernal passage, I am grateful. I
am going to walk over to the frog chorus now, and bask in it.

Herschel Raney

Conway AR

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