I have recently found myself wrapped in a late night love affair with a mockingbird. He begins his balllad-ing, both intense and dramatic, around 11:30 pm, and doesn’t stop for hours. Initially, I feared he was a mother bird frantically chirping for her attacked or injured chick. However, after several nights of these dramatic sonnets, I realized this could not be the case.
With a little research, I found that in springtime male mockingbirds croon in this way, sometimes even at night, to keep their mates (who are liable to go flitting and flirting around, checking out other males in the area, as to keep her options open and, well, not all her eggs in one basket, so to speak…)
So this love-crazed male, outside my window, professes his undying love for his sweetheart. Or he might be a bit more mischievous. His motives may also be to either win her from another male, or…well, to attract another female, as to keep his options open and avoid keeping all his eggs in one basket.
So even here, in the middle of suburbia, in the middle of a cookie cutter neighborhood, in the middle of the night; love and romance and passion and virility and battle and music are wildly alive! And this excites me so much, that the artificial human impulse for sameness and civility, tameness and sanitization and sharp, clear boundaries, has been completely overthrown by a fury of little birds who chatter under the stars, who are ready for war and passion and parenthood, all at the same time.
And this is largely a secret. After much tossing and turning and attempts at being a responsible mother who should really get some sleep, I finally tip toed outside with a flashlight, audience to this glorious creature, giggling, holding myself back from knocking on every neighbor’s door to join me, or shaking my children or husband awake, so that they might too delight in this beautiful production. But windows were dark, lights were all out. My sweet husband must wake so early, and the children breathed so peacefully. And so, it was a show for only the birds, and for me.
The next day I found myself outside with the garden shears. I must trim the bushes, as tidy bushes are good for property values and home owner associations. I notice myself holding tears in my eyes as I cut the new growth. Pruning, I tell myself. Pruning. Yet I feel that I am stifling the bushes, snipping off the fresh, glossy, unfolding, reddish green leaves of new growth. The babies. Does the bush sing for these fresh green stems and tender leaves in lullabies undetectable to my ears? Do the leaves dance with their leaf-lovers, so subtly that my eyes cannot catch the movement?
There is a truck across the street. A pool cleaning service vehicle, equipped with all manner of chemical cocktails and algaecides, to keep the pools blue. A pest control van is parked a few houses down, then further a TruGreen truck, and I wonder if it should be called FalseGreen.
And yet here I am, pruning the wild out of my own bushes. What a funny place my heart occupies. I remind myself, this is a good neighborhood, nice people, lots of children, stable property values, whatever that means. Unfortunately, I am not very good at normal, though I sometimes try for the sake of my children, who, despite their healthy senses of humor and strength, can become utterly embarrassed by the antics of their mother.
Thus, I brush away my silly tears, and prepare to start normalizing the bushes again.
And that is when he finds me. The mockingbird, at the very tippity top of a tree across the street, with his head held high, singing out his nighttime love song, smack in the middle of the day. As if this is not quite showy enough for the ladybirds, lucky as they already are, in my estimation, he finishes each verse with a flurry of acrobatics, wings and beak and tiny legs launching in perfectly executed movements, and ending with a steady landing on his branch. Within moments, he begins again. I decide, with all that mojo in such a little body, he must not need sleep.
I am enraptured. I am completely and hopelessly in love with him. I realize, staring up at him with sweat and tears salty on my face, he is not only a Romeo, he is an alchemist. A real magician.
You see, his song was not originally his, it was borrowed from the environment around him. He is copying the sounds of other birds, of frogs, of insects; it is hard to identify each contributor to his melody. He has picked up what was around him, molded it all into an orchestra, and made it new, fresh, different, unique, breathtaking.
I am reminded that no matter where I find myself, whatever my circumstance, there is always the curious opportunity to alchemize, to mix a little bit of my own magic into it all. Add a little color, a little spice, a little melody, into the world around me. Give and receive, flow in, flow out. To be as free and resplendent, yet as giving and natural, as this mockingbird.
He is just doing his job, after all. Being fabulous and beautiful and amazing and passionate and mischievous. But most of all, inspiring.
I shall try to do the same.
(If you are looking for me, I am in the house with half the hedge tightly manicured, the other half with glimmering branches outstretched in beautiful chaos toward the sun.)