Blue-Jays

This morning, after days of cloudless blue, our sky was overcast. But it was warm again, and through open doors and windows, I could hear the blue-jays cry.

I don’t hear the jays every day. At our feeder we get chickadees and finches, a nuthatch, and a small brown bird with a dart of white behind its eye. Every time I see it, I intend to learn its name, and then I forget to follow through when I go on to everything else.

These days I awake to birdsong. One of them starts up before five a.m., and by the time seven rolls around, lots of them are going at it out there. Some are songs I know, but not all. I would like to know.

But today I heard the blue-jays. One crying, then another. It’s a distinctive song, less music than call. A conversation. I was standing in the kitchen–feeding the dog? Putting the granola away? And I heard the jays out there under the cloud-covered sky.

When I was a child in July at my grandparents’ house, the jays woke me up every morning. It’s a bird sanctuary where they lived, where my parents live now, everywhere trees until you get to beach. I knew all sorts of birds by song and sight.

The blue-jays woke us up every morning.

And they were the birds that sang in the rain. Those rare, rainy days when the world was dark with clouds and the shade of trees, when we didn’t go to the beach but sat inside and read, and heard the rain on the leaves.

I thought of that this morning, standing in the kitchen, listening to the jays. The clouds made the world darker outside this morning, and it seemed right to me that the jays should be calling to one another just off edge of our deck.

And it was right, I thought, that the jays cried in the rain at my grandparents’ house, as they cry in the rain at my parents’ house even now.

Except that, in those days when I was eleven with a book on my lap, it wasn’t right to listen to the blue-jays in the rain. It wasn’t right to listen to them in those days, and I didn’t listen, no more than I listened to the rain on the leaves. I just heard the rain. I heard the birds.

And all was right with the world.


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