Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mocking bird salute

I've lived in a two story townhouse home for the past seven years and for the last five of those years, I have had a yearly visitor in the form of a Mocking Bird. For those of you who aren't familiar with this bird, here is what Wikipedia tells us:

Mockingbirds are a group of New World passerine birds from the Mimidae family. They are best known for the habit of some species mimicking the songs of other birds and the sounds of insects and amphibians, often loudly and in rapid succession. Wikipedia

Tennessee Mocking Bird
Mimus polyglottos
It is an ironic sidenote that the mocking bird is the Tennessee State Bird genus Mimus polyglottos, which my home state adopted and made official on April 19, 1933. Why am I writing about mocking birds? Because these hardy little birds, if you have read the above Wiki information, are very LOUD and PERSISTENT in their yearly nesting and mating habits. These habits include finding the highest point available for them to perch and warble their little hearts out, pitching woo...loudly and the night. And to hapless townhouse inhabitants attempting to grab a few precious hours of sleep.

I'm happy to share with you that not only do mocking birds imitate the songs of other birds, insects and amphibians, they imitate cats and dogs, machinery and musical instruments, and the occasional slamming door or rusty hinge. They trill through their repertoire with great and lusty enthusiasm, rarely pausing as they skillfully switch from bird song to cat meow to truck engine revving continuously. At times, it can be amusing listening to the sheer volume of calls they can produce. My bedroom happens to be the tallest peak of this row of townhouse units, so this is why I am the lucky recipient of the nightly serenade and mocking bird orchestra.

Again, you're probably wondering why I'm writing about this topic. For months now, I have been turning over in my mind the fact that humans and wildlife aren't that greatly different. I've written before about social masks that we all employ to get through our daily existence. In a similar manner to the mocking bird, we also adapt our speaking voice in tone, inflection, volume and emotion to communicate our thoughts and emotions to those around us. We wear different clothing, hairstyles and cosmetics to project various public images, to denote our current mood and again, to use as social camouflage and quite often, as a courtship tool.
The thing that always strikes me is how cheerful mocking birds are, every single night, in their pursuit of procreation. I am sure that to the mocking bird, this is not a cause for amusement. Indeed, their nightly concert is a life and death effort to continue their species. My human ears cannot help, however, finding charm in the widely varied trills, chirps, barks, cricket sounds (those are the exception to the finding charm part as they really drive me nuts) and engine noises. These small birds are quite aggressive in their display of auditory talents, finding no shame at all in adopting sounds from another species or object to further their goals. In some ways, I would liken it to a painter painting, using colors to express different emotions and messages, or a conductor standing in front of an orchestra with arms raised, wand at the ready to coax a stellar performance from all the musicians. Mocking birds simply do the same with their calls.
Of course, when it is 3:30 am and I am still hearing incessant bird calls, cat screeches and hissing as well as various motorized noises in rapid succession, it isn't quite as charming or amusing anymore. There are many nights when I lie awake listening to the endless, noisy litany that I am suspicious my particular mocking bird is perched by my window with a calculating, crafty, borderline maniacal gleam in his beady little eyes, fully aware he is costing me a decent night of sleep. I also wonder about the female counterpart to my serenading friend; is she sitting out there in the night, listening, brought to a feminine birdie swoon, thinking, "Oh my! Now that is one sexy, masculine, attractive boat motor sound! That must be the father of my future children! I must fly to him now!"? Even then, when these thoughts are chasing blearily through my tired mind, I do admit to a certain level of admiration for this little bird's plucky spirit.

We as human beings could take a leaf from their book as we navigate our own daily lives. Shine our emotions brightly and enthusiastically, be unafraid to show every facet and skill we possess in a lyrical manner, perhaps borrow someone else's form of expression momentarily, communicate with others with absolute enthusiasm...and most of all, find a high spot to proclaim our love widely and loudly to the masses. Wouldn't that be an interesting, entertaining courtship process?

There is no great or deep message here this time around. More a tangle of sleep deprived thoughts that have been assailing me for several months now during the nightly mocking bird salute. As annoying as my current feathered visitor can be each night, I still wind up missing the sounds as fall weather sets in. I feel a sort of kinship evolve in the months each mocking bird sets up housekeeping outside my bedroom window. From it has sprung a blog post that I'm not sure will capture readers' attention in quite the same way as other posts, but perhaps many of you will remember similar memories of your own with a mocking bird salute. And perhaps you will smile at the memories.
If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me at Healing Morning blog.


The needle on my compass is broken. It used to be quite reliable as far as my navigational partner, but currently it stopped pointing the way. Now what?! Maybe it is a good thing.

I often find that often the compass is not necessarily “broken” as much as it has an intrinsic intelligence that pauses its function to allow us to switch to our intuitive devices. I think things happen to keep us from plodding along life’s path in a “lemming-like” state just because. Like early sailors, if they were caught out at sea without a map or compass, they switched between what God placed before them, mixed in with a little “gut”, and they fearlessly tread onward driven by passion and fear of standing still.

However, when the path forward sometimes seems rather dull, frightful, unchallenging, or perhaps dismal at a given moment, we can take a peek in our rearview mirror. Although not always wise to “live” in yesterday, we can retrace a few paces and maybe examine our impact.

Is where we have been only what it appears on the surface? Is our past only comprised of our own circumstances? Are we travelling alone? I think we leave footprints.

In our travels we leave behind visible markers of our presence. Sometimes we leave perishable traces of where we have been–momentary evidence that we have passed through. It is our footprint on life’s sandy beach simply waiting on the tide of time to erase it. From the simple gestures, assistances we have loaned to a stranger, and idle banter with passers-by we can indeed leave a footprint along our daily path. Think back at the end of your day to simple moments of truth where we maybe encountered a stranger, exchanged contact, and then proceeded onward. Do you remember them? There lies a footprint. They took the place of another thought. In your absence you live on in someone else’s life–even if momentarily. Who knows where the nudge will take you?

Sometimes we walk through damp concrete–our steps indelibly present–proof of our presence strong and visible eventually hardening. Maybe they were words of encouragement that turned another’s life around at a crucial moment. Many times we are not always aware of the depth and impact our presence can make on another. We may not be aware of how close to another’s core we come. Sometimes with a simple anecdote we may save a life somewhere down the line.

Some of us are teachers. We share our skill so that another may flourish. Words, trades, jobs, and knowledge are precious gifts never to be taken lightly. Used in the hands of a creative master, we never know what momentum may be given to a simple statement or craft. Maybe our footprint here was simply stepping first in the right direction allowing others to follow.

As mentors past or present, we must not concern ourselves as much with where we are now going, but to remain at peace that we have fertilized another’s journey. Being a parent is one of the most crucial of this example. “Do as I say, and not as I do?” I still think we should lead by example noticing that a child learns life through our footsteps. If we are mindful now of our steps, less apology and reconciliation may be needed later. Time passed through anger and pain that could be well spent exchanging quality time–time spent laying a dual set of steps for future travelers. Lay your footsteps for your children as if they were pavers to cross life’s chasm. Often they are.

Sometimes our footsteps go through another’s garden. Sometimes we tread where we are unwelcome. We may have good or bad intention but still we find we have trampled another’s field. As with flowers, they can be damaged; they can be destroyed, but can also be replanted–seeds can be re-sown. We must realize that we may not be welcome to help in the recultivation. Even though we may be willing to dirty our hands and dig, and be willing to water the seeds for new growth, sometimes we must move onward and create our own garden where our footsteps are welcome. Maybe this new space must be fertilized with the lesson learned that we need to be aware that we also travel in a path shared by others, and that we must respect our fellow journeyers.

I find as I venture onward, I have become less attached to the path I leave but have increased in my respect of it. I realize that I am not the only one stepping. I also realize how much my steps leave behind a part of me both good and bad, and sometimes they are brief in their presence, and sometimes will remain long after I have left this Earth.

In my presence, and my awareness of where I am now, I can at least try my best to be respectful in where I leave my footprints. I also realize that sometimes I may leave them where I am completely oblivious to. I hope I don’t trample your flowers.

I finally realize that at some point along the way, I was often uncertain of what lie ahead, but now as I look back, I realize I kept walking onward. Sometimes I needed faith to keep moving to be able to put the story together later by examining the footsteps. I just hope when I reach the end of my journey, my steps were flanked by my loved ones, that they were pointed in a good direction and that when in a deep or dark area, the steps continued out of the valley.

Thanks for walking with me today.

Repost from - Artisan of the Human Spirit by Tony Anders