A lone Mockingbird stays up all night in our neighborhood, rotating through a vast repertoire of learned song snippets that all sound vaguely like car alarms. Who is that bird and why is he trilling away in the dead of night?
It turns out that he is not calling for a mate, nor does he have insomnia. He is engaged in a desperate protective strategy for his young, to keep them safe from nocturnal predators. Thinking about this makes me exhausted when I hear him squalling away in a nearby tree. When does he sleep? When does he breathe?
I liked it better when I thought he was just lusty and calling hey baby hey.
So many things about life are like that. Ignorance is bliss when you can’t handle the cold facts of struggle on the planet.
When I became acquainted with some people in the oh-so-glamorous music industry and heard about how songs make it to the pop charts, I understood that every song we hear on the radio has a story behind it. Many of the stories are of struggle and heartbreak. We may be humming, but the people who birthed that song probably have scars to show for their creativity.
In fact, everything around us has a history. Every effort, invention, manufactured part, “thing” – has a human story. The natural world has a parallel storyline that is rarely observed, mourned, or noted by humans.
Back in my bird-centric world, I have been watching a juvenile red tail reluctantly learn how to feed itself, coached by a parent. It is harassed daily by gangs of crows and it complains piteously when not simply fed by the parent – who is intent on weaning the overgrown chick. When I don’t see the juvy for a few days I worry that it has succumbed to hunger, disease, injury, or parasites. Then I see it again and feel happy that it has survived, despite great odds against it. 75% of red tail juveniles die before they see one year. More die during drought times.
I want to rescue that bird and give him stability and health, survival strategies and knowledge of his own strengths.
It is mysterious that such a basic foundation is so difficult to give and so easy to lose.
I listen to that Mockingbird singing his heart out in frantic worry all night. I cannot think of a single thing I could do to help him.