The International Writers Magazine:Birdwatch
Eric D. Lehman
a miserable hiking trip in New Hampshires White Mountains,
a friend and I were followed and encouraged by a particular birdsong,
simple and consistent, loud and joyous. We may have forsaken that
grueling June march if not for those bright, invisible voices.
But the name of the feathered animal that had cheered us on our
way remained dark.
The mystery nagged
my imagination, appearing whenever I heard the Spring music of the forests.
I dabbled with taped bird-songs from my local library and listened for
the melody during my many wood-walks. Nothing for four years. On another
trip to the valleys of the White Mountains in a cold May, I strained
my ears for the song, but snow and rain may have kept the enigmatic
creature away. I didnt know.
And then, an opportunity to solve this little problem presented itself.
My friends and I took another hike across the peaks of the Whites, from
hut to hut along the high trails. As we passed through the krumholz
layer of stubby pines, the song burst from the thickets. Enchanted and
determined, I strove with my limited musical ability to memorize the
song. At Madison Hut, I confronted the local naturalist, a college girl
ten years younger, hoping that she knew something I didnt. "What
is this bird?" And I vainly tried to whistle the song. "Well,"
she shrugged, "Its probably the white-throated sparrow. You
hear it a lot up here. The song goes
old sa-am peabody peabody
"Thats it," I smiled with the joy of a four-year mystery
"Its actually the only birdsong I know," she confessed,
and we laughed at our luck.
I learned as much as I could about this tiny little songster, a gray-breasted
bird with a white throat, a black bill, and a yellow spot between its
eye and bill. Its summer range is from Canada to the northeast United
States and its winter range is from the southern U.S. to Mexico. I found
that some of these magic birds wintered in my own home in Connecticut,
but at that time they do not sing. I vowed to try to listen for them
with more than my ears.
Only a week later, on the top of the more easily reached Mount Greylock
in Massachusetts, as I relaxed on a rock perched high above the town
of Adams, the little mountain birds took up their fabulous hymn, conversing
back and forth in the pines. I realized that I would carry in my heart
the twelve notes of the white-throated sparrow for the rest of my life.
And more importantly, perhaps, I would carry the vital satisfaction
of seeking and finding one of those inconsequential scraps of knowledge
that nevertheless imbue our daily lives with spirit.
© Eric Lehman Feb 1st 2006
Eric is an English professor at the University of Bridgeport
and has traveled extensively throughout the world. He has been
previously published by various web journals, such as August Cutter,
Niederngasse, Simply Haiku, and of course Hackwriters.
Eric D Lehman in London
the Lake District
Eric D Lehman 9/14/04
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Day in Rome
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Prof Eric D Lehman takes a break
American Inn 06/01/05
Eric D Lehman
Eric D Lehman
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