When we set out for the woods, the weather was quiet and the air was mild; Just a gentle breeze from the south, and a white sky, stretched seamlessly over all of us.
All this looked like a silent landscape that was holding its breath. But it wasn’t. The birds were going crazy. All of them. Together.
My usual friends were there, and I could acknowledge their songs: the two robins by the gate, slogging it out in a singing competition for territory on each side of the fence; the woodpecker in the wood, and the jackdaws on the field across the river.
But their songs were hard to pick out in the wall of sound coming from wrens, chaffinches, dunnocks and song thrushes. All the resident birds were frantic to be heard above all the others. It was as though they were thinking – and I’m aware I am anthropomorphising here and they are thinking no such thing – “Hey, time’s getting on. Those songsters from Africa and Southern Europe will be here soon for their summer holidays. I must sing my little heart out while my lady can still hear me.”
To walk through this sound is an honour and a delight. My visual awareness contracts as I just live in the sound.
Sometimes I stop and listen to a scene of drama. This morning I stopped by the river to listen to a thrush’s alarm call in a thicket on the other bank. It went on for some time, so something was really bothering it. This alarm and aggression was all its life at that time, and I was watching (or, rather, listening to) its life.
With that outsider position comes a sense of privilege, such as a psychotherapist might feel, or a wildlife photographer. For the thrush, its whole life and energy was in that thicket and in that time. There was nothing else.
At other times I slowly swim from tree to tree, noticing the sound of one bird fading into another. At these times I am lost. The birds surround me, and it can almost feel as though I am pushing through their feathers.
At moments like this, I become aware of the stirring of sap all around me, the fleshy spread of bulbs, the earth full of the breathing of insects.
My own life becomes a wonder, and the lives of everything around me.