New Mexico Morning in Bird Song

Early morning walks near my New Mexico home–especially Sunday mornings– feel like prayer. There’s the slight lift of the faint path as I swing onto the main sandy artery that connects to the pecan tree-lined fields below. Farmer’s daughter that I am, I like checking the crops: there’s the seasonal rotation of alfalfa, lettuce, onions, even watermelon. I stand in the stillness of the moment.

And the crows know it.

This particular morning, the sky is full of American Crows. At least one hundred of them, a moving cacophony and shadowing host as I move, like a character in “The Birds”–head down–along my way.

My way? I read where crows can memorize a face. Yes, they recognize the perpetrators who interrupt their nests, feeding, roosting places. This morning I’ve done the latter: they argue and caution and warn me that I have flushed them from their warm refuge in the mesquite trees. Maybe my knit hat and sun glasses will confuse them as they record my face for further reference. Like a fugitive, I duck my head and concentrate on the smaller birds nearby.

All scuttle. Green-tailed Towhee, flitting ground feeder; Curved-billed Thrasher, a noisy and less cautious host; the even bolder Pyrhulloxia, our own desert cardinal, with a brash call and flirting movements to boot.

I glory in the movement and sound of the birds of morning, even if I regret disturbing them. Their lilting shadows in flight, their sprite-like movements: ground and sky are alive and lift me up.

How blessed to be away from the daily news, cell phones, the human shuffle.

Later that night, in the second of my bookend walks–a dream–I see a nighthawk flying by. I look through a glass window; his back gleams a reflection like oil in water.

A bald eagle appears, but profiled with human teeth, beak peeled back in a snarl–or is it a smirk?

Not natural, not natural, these images.

Awake, and disturbed by the dream, I try to remember previous days when my farm walks took me under the arch of birdsong–meadowlarks calling from one side of the road to the other. And in my farmhouse, the mourning dove, again an umbrella of sound, entreating each other from opposite sides of the house. And I’m inside the sound.

In these troubled days (and nights, as in my dream), I listen for the morning birdsong, more than ever, in their persistent fresh beginnings, like prayers.

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