There is a special joy in listening to birds singing. They don’t do it for money or fame. To be sure, there is some genetic explanation emerging from four billion years of natural selection, but I like to think they also do it for fun.
At the Wattensaw farm, we enjoy a veritable symphony of artists. The cooing of the turtle doves is almost constant. The other evening, Brenda heard a whip-poor-will. I eagerly await the opportunity for I haven’t heard one in years. But sometimes as the sun goes down, I do hear an owl that has chosen to bless us with residency.
There is this one special bird though. When we are at the farm, we enjoy an evening libation in the back yard, watching the geese play on the pond, the dogs acting fools, and, from time to time, deer feeding in the back pasture. At this time, there appears, as if some director on nature’s stage had signaled for its entrance, a special mockingbird. And that bird can sing. “Brenda calls it “Mockitybird.”
It sings on the fencepost. It sings from a tree. It sings from any perch capable of holding his tiny frame. He singles into the evening sky with such abandon that all creatures great and small seem to stop what they are doing and listen. A spiritual person might believe the sounds reach God’s ears.
The bird seems, and I know this sounds foolish, to fit its repertoire to the situation. There is this one dog at the farm—picked up after being abandoned in the south of the county—named Judi Kate (the dog who wants to practice law). As if in taunt-mode, the mockingbird is not above setting forth with a shrill, “Judi-Judi-Judi-Judi.” The look of confusion that creates is more charming than any movie scene.
I also swear I have heard it issue a sound much resembling “Jimmi-Jimmi-Jimmi.” But that could be a result of libation-induced mesmerization
Mike Benetz, a dear friend and teacher of guitar tells the story of a young man with a learning disability who would come into a music store where Mike once worked. The man loved harmonicas and was constantly saving money from his job to buy a new one.
The trouble was, he couldn’t play a single lick on the harmonica. One day, he admitted as much to Mike. “I know I don’t sound good when I play,” he said, “but I do it because it makes me smile.”
Do you reckon the mockingbird may do it because it makes us smile?
“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird