Their pitch is loud and quick and insistent. Their voices tumble together through my door and windows that are open wide to Spring. Over and over again, their chattering starts suddenly with a burst of excitement, and ends just as suddenly with a sense of secrecy. They are tiny and newborn and nesting in the far northwest corner of my carport-turned-sitting-porch-called-veranda. They are Carolina wrens.
Every year, the parents return to build their family nest inside a tired old birdhouse that perches on a ledge under the roof and seems to suit their requirements just so. I suspect it may look familiar and smell of home, like a favored family cabin on a lake or at the beach. It is very high up, safe and secure to begin the family, but without mercy for the young until they’ve learned to fly. This year, one little bit of a thing got pushed out far too soon, and lost his chance to fully fledge and learn to live. And when I found him, I held his fragile, barely feathered body in the palm of my hand until his small warmth flew softly into the wind instead of his wings; he is buried beneath the Camellia bushes. But more babies remain safely in the nest, and the parents are diligent in their care and feeding and protection.
Although this is nearly the 17th year the small house has been nested in, it is the first time I have been able to fully witness the wrens’ presence and activity – the first Spring since I converted the carport from storage space into a living space, and the first year my busy-ness slowed down and became still enough to be truly observent. And so, I read everything I could find about Carolina wrens and learned their life patterns and habits, and I’ve come to believe that it may be the same bonded pair returning to this nesting spot – at least for the last few years. It makes me feel quite “chosen,” very fortunate to be hosting them (or at least some version of them) season after season.
At first I tried to take pictures to share; and I waited until the parents brought food and the tiny beaks from inside peeked out and shrieked and squealed and shrilled over it. But these moments came and went so quickly, I could never even get the camera aimed in time. And then I set the phone/camera down and turned away for just a minute – and turned back to find one of the wren parents perched on the phone itself, as if it were waiting there to tell me to just stop please. Even one of the most famous of all photographers, Ansel Adams, once observed: “When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images beome inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”
And so, now when I am out working in the plant beds or sweeping the porch or reading or writing in a chair in the shade nearby, and I hear the conversations between my Carolina wren family begin again, I simply stop and watch and eperience the moments with them in silence. (I did put soft cushions on the ground at the base of that corner, just in case.)
I have become compellinglly in tune with their life sounds, embracing their noise, their frenzy of movement, their palpable anticipation. I seem to be waiting with these young life forms with as much thrill and sense of urgency as their own, waiting for that one moment that will come very soon now. That first trembling step into the world, the breathless exhultation of being lifted onto a passing bit of perfect breeze.
Perhaps I envy them. I know I am in awe of them. When, with nothing more than faith and instinct and thin air, they will fly.