The Mast-Head: Winter’s Sounds

It is strange that nature would abandon its sweet songs of spring once winter comes

Winter’s sound is a scrape. There is ice to be removed from the truck’s windshield. The ground talks back as you walk. Tree limbs cross, swordsmen in a drawn-out dance. On the bay, frozen blocks will shift against each other as waves pass underneath and die. 

Gone like the leaves that only recently wore their cloaks, the true songbirds have moved south. Taking their place, here to pick at hard, red berries, are the jays, their sharp cries scratching the ear. 

Crows, like black darts on the pink sky, move at first light, cawing greetings or warnings, not exuberance. The small chickadees, seed eaters, ping from the brush, their voices less melody than percussion.

It is strange that nature would abandon its sweet songs of spring once winter comes. Perhaps it is utility, though; when survival depends on what rocklike forage the others leave behind there is little need for harmony. 

Yet, the Inuit people sing, perhaps because for millenniums they were able to make their own warmth with fire. There are songs to calm a baby, songs to entertain or teach a skill. Humans are social creatures; we depend on it to survive. Birds that perch in the dull brush are solitary in their late December searching. They must stay alive now to fly home to nest. 

Far in the north, there may be song in time. The jay could turn sweet-throated, the chickadee melodious. I don’t know. That is long months away. Until then, birds here call now and then from the thicket, if only to reassure themselves that there will be time for singing once again.