Friday, May 25, 2007

Wooster Street, May 2007

I sat last night when I got home from work - opened the windows wide, put the cushion on the hardwood floor and let the sounds of the city wash over me.

And what a racket - the birds! They weren't singing, exactly - more like peeping, cooing and squawking. There seemed to be a frenzy of evening activity, maybe a time for feeding and socializing before roosting for the night. And it all seemed to be happening in the horse chestnut tree outside my window.

I heard doves, for sure, but I'm not sure what else I was hearing. Sparrows? Starlings? The sounds were more assertive and less musical than the morning songs I hear as I write (like now).

When I sit I don't close my eyes - part of the practice is staying connected with the world, and after all you don't want to fall asleep. I was facing the window, but gazing downward toward the floor. Still, there was so much commotion outside that sometimes I just had to look up and see what was flapping around on the fire escape.

And poor Armenia was beside herself with excitement. She sat on the window ledge, big-eyed, barely containing a plaintive meow every time a dove strayed near.

Was it distracting? Well, sure. But sitting doesn't have to be silent. You just let the sounds become part of the experience, let them come and go, each squawk and coo passing with each breath. You don't hold onto them - which is what I was doing when I began thinking about which species I was hearing. Instead, you just let each sound pass so you can really hear the next one.

I'm so lucky to have this apartment, with a tree outside and so much life in the courtyard.


  1. Good morning Steve. Sometimes I sit in front of the house and just listen to the sounds of life. It is amazing what you hear. Have a great day.

  2. You are lucky! Wow I love the crazy birdsong at dawn and dusk. It's sparrows and starlings that make that harsh frenzied sound here in DC. Isn't it funny how, once it gets hot, the birds stop? maybe they're too hot to sing, who knows?

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  3. I admire your vision quest and your search for those small miracles of the ordinary we so often miss in our preoccupation with our daily needs. Lovely images, Steve. I'll be back, looking for more.

    Where I live, and thanks to my supplying seeds and unroasted peanuts, there is a constant squabble of jays, house finches and mockingbirds. The biggest joy is the way the evening sundowner winds of this time of year knock an unsuspecting squirrel from a perch on a tree branch, adding a reproving chatter to the ambience.

  4. You make think about the French movvie "Amelie Poulain" :)

  5. great post and picture steve. and the white bit on the left hand side looks like a leafprint.

    happy blogday for yesterday. I'm so glad you found blogging before flickr.

  6. Merle: It IS amazing, when you have a chance to really listen.

    Reya: It sounds like your bird-squabble is a lot like mine. I think the birds follow the same patterns that humans naturally do -- energy in the morning, a rest in the afternoon, and more energy in the evening. Makes sense, right?

    Shelly: Thanks for the kind words! I've often thought about putting out seed on my fire escape - but I'd probably be swarmed by the pigeons!

    Armenia: I LOVE that movie! (As you probably surmised, "Armenia" is the name of my cat, by the way!)

    Lettuce: You're right -- it does look like a leaf. Never noticed that! Thanks for the blog support. :)