Sweet Magnolia and Bird Song

For Mother’s Day, we went for a long walk at the Royal Botanical Garden’s Arboretum. The magnolias were in bloom. It’s only been warm and sunny for a few days, but I think we missed the fleetingly short peak of the blossoms. Even so, the air felt warm and heady with the sweet, sticky scent of the magnolias. An array of whites, pinks, and purples dotted the landscape, sticking out against the yellow-green shoots of spring and a cerulean, cloudless sky.

We ambled slowly through the blooming trees, into the woods, making our way down to the lake. Along the way we saw leafy shoots of skunk cabbage and fresh buds sprouting from all the trees. Spring is officially here and ready to be enjoyed. I kept a watch for woodpeckers, often seen, but difficult to spot flitting about pecking the trees.

On the way back I stopped for a moment on the trail to listen to the sound scape. Around me I could distinctly hear five or six different types of birds, some of which I couldn’t identify. Though different species, they were clearly having a conversation with their respective bird songs. In a flash it reminded me of the early days (weeks, months!) of the pandemic when it seemed as though the whole world had shut down. At that time, an eerie stillness and silence filled the space. There was no traffic, no airplanes, no construction. Nothing to be heard… except for bird song.

I recall going outside for part of every day to listen. Hearing the birds felt comforting, as though providing something normal and consistent to latch onto in that crazy time. With the noise pollution minimized, it was easy to hear the birds, something I hadn’t realized I’d been missing until it was suddenly there, all around me. An unexpected delight from those early, dark days.

Two years later I make it a point to stop and listen to the birds. I’ve even started learning how to identify some of them through their songs.

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