I have switched off the music inside my office so that I may listen to better music outside my office. The digital songs have been replaced by wren song, which the Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes as “jumbled bubbling,” and your local poet won’t do any better than that.
The wren may or may not be the same wren who was here last year. Last year’s bird first caught my attention not so much with his song as with the scratching sounds emanating from the window air conditioner beside the office door. At first I took it to be mice or a chipmunk. Then I deduced it was the wren, stuffing the narrow space between the air conditioner and the window frame with twigs. I went outside and peered in: His work had progressed to the point that I didn’t want to interfere, although I feared the location — just a few feet off the ground — might make it vulnerable to predators.
Unfortunately, I was right on. The day the eggs hatched, a local cat pawed the naked chicks from the nest and left them scattered dead on the ground. That very day I purchased a wren house and hung it in a cherry tree three feet away. I was holding out hope that the birds might try for a second clutch.
They didn’t return. Throughout the winter, every time I slogged through the snow to my office, I passed the wren house. The entry hole was an empty black eye, and I wondered if the wren in question — or any wren — would return. Now he has. It is my understanding that he will prepare two or three nesting sites, then sing about each in hopes of attracting a partner. When I first heard him calling from the cherry tree outside my window, I snuck over for a peek, and there he was, head tipped back and his throat literally bulging with song. I’ve kept an eye out ever since, and today I can report I’ve seen him go in and out of the house several times. Unfortunately, I’ve also seen him calling from a set of low bushes beside the sidewalk, where I already found one dead wren last week. If I knew a little more about wren real estate, I’d help him stage for the showing. Set some earwig-scented candles about the place, throw in some spider egg sacs to help with nest parasites.
Just now he sang again. I went to the window, and he’s still popping in and out of the house. It’s a pure low-level thrill to watch a bird do exactly what I hoped a bird might do when I hung the little structure last summer. And lest “low-level” sound derogatory, please note my use of the modifier “pure” and understand that I wrote the line during a stretch when the daily news is positively vibrating with “high-level” thrills, a vibration not dissimilar to that emitted by a 1972 Plymouth Duster just before the left front wheel departs the spindle. You hang a birdhouse, there comes a bird; an infinitesimal fragment of life falls back in place, and the world spins more smoothly.
And then there is that song. Filtered through sun, stillness, and a window screen, as all the best sounds are. The bird jumbles and bumbles and hopes for love, and don’t we all?