The Mockingbird’s Song

Flag, Tree, Shadow

I went on my rigorously lonely walk today under a tumbled gray sky, wandering through the residential neighborhoods nearby, with their charming houses and apartment buildings. Lots of Art-Deco touches on vintage buildings, lots of delegant brick cladding, lots of gardens….

And in one garden, at least, a mockingbird was singing–a bit early in the year, perhaps, but in full voice. HIs music twisted and turned, rose and fell, in the manner of flight itself, and I had to smile: because the mockingbird’s song is a stern warning to other male mockingbirds to maintain their social distance!

Much of birdsong is in effect gangsta rap, and is charming to us only because we don’t know the vocabulary. Birds brag to the ladies and bluster to the boys, and the sweet flutings we love are not charming to the singers themselves. I dedicated an essay to this, and you can read it online if you want: “Architecture,Money, Graffiti, and Birds,” in Empty Mirror magazine.

Today, I chose willful ignorance of the music’s import in order to help soothe me at a difficult time, but it was good to be reminded that social isolation can have its value, though it is not easy for convivial beasts such as we are. I favor crows as a model, myself, with their noisy cooperatives and witty ways–and the crows are doing well. But for now, I suppose we’d better listen to the mockingbird instead, as an old song goes, and make sure we live to love again.

Rick Risemberg

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