I first heard them in Virginia when I stopped in a forested glade to walk the dogs. There must have been two or three pairs singing from the leafy lime green canopy. Even though I was in the northeast, I was still a long way from Maine. Yet I experienced this symphony as a distinct welcoming ‘home’. The scent of wild honeysuckle blended with the songs so completely that I can’t separate the images from the sounds in my mind.
It has been almost two years since I last heard the cardinals, the most beloved bird in my life. I had missed them so much in the desert. When I finally arrived at my log cabin I filled my bird feeder and was somewhat bewildered when grosbeaks, chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, even one grackle arrived almost immediately, as if they already were expecting me.
When the male serenaded me with his whistle that second morning I stopped dead in my tracks astonished. Cardinals are forest or edge dwellers and although this place is heavily treed I assumed that the cardinals had long ago disappeared because of lack of food. When the male flew to the ground below the feeder, I was overjoyed.
Now every morning when I step out the door I hear the Cardinal’s welcoming whistle. The female calls from the trees and yesterday I heard three conversing simultaneously.
Perhaps like the bears that visit, these birds know that there is a very lonely aging woman who craves deep companionship from her closest friends who are woven like precious jewels into an edge person’s life.