In the past, whenever I visited New Jersey relatives during the spring or summer, I was struck by the variety of birdsongs I heard, particularly in the early morning.  Although it was true that the birds welcomed in the day rather noisily and could awaken light sleepers, I thought their songs were beautiful.  I often peered out the window, hoping to identify the birds that struck up these magnificent tunes, but I had no success.

I mentioned to a relative with whom I was staying that the birdsongs there were so different from the ones where I lived.  My relative snapped something about those #+%* noisy birds being a nuisance, waking her up every morning.  Her daughter, on the other hand, was as pleased as I about the birds.

This year when visiting, I commented again on how I just couldn’t get over how impressive the birdsongs were.  My relative said in a pleasant voice, “Yes, they are.”  I was a bit surprised by her response, but I also remembered that this year, my relative was diagnosed with a rather serious condition that will demand surgery and medications for the rest of her life.  Certainly, her world has changed.

The Sparrow

A little bird, with plumage brown,

Beside my window flutters down,

A moment chirps its little strain,

Then taps upon my windowpane,

And chirps again, and hops along,

To call my notice to its song;

But I work on, nor heed its lay,

Till, in neglect, it flies away.

So birds of peace and hope and love

Come fluttering earthward from above,

To settle on life’s window-sills,

And ease our load of earthly ills; 

But we, in traffic’s rush and din

Too deep engaged to let them in,

With deadened heart and sense
plod on,

Nor know our loss till they are gone.

From “Lyrics of Lonely Life”

by Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...