marissa_doyle (marissa_doyle) wrote,

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One of the Pleasures of Life

Spring is dragging its heels about coming to New England this year, as if the ghost of all that snow we had in the winter is warding it off.  In some ways, that's a good thing--it prolongs the blooming time of the daffodils, which is just fine by me...but it means I can't get my basil and parsley going in the planters on the back patio because a too-chilly night could blast them.  Life is like that sometimes, so I'll enjoy my daffs and continue to buy Maple's parsley at the grocery store.

But the birds are all here on schedule, chilly May or not.  And last week I got to enjoy one of the deepest, but quietest, pleasures of my life:  hearing the hermit thrush sing for the first time this spring.

If you lived in the Boston area in the seventies and eighties (and into the nineties), you might have listened to WGBH radio, the premier public radio station in New England.  The early morning classical music show was hosted by a quirky announcer named Robert J. Lurtsema who looked like an avuncular toad and had a slow, mellow delivery that drove most type-A people nuts but which was enormously comforting at seven in the was his habit of editing the seven AM headlines so that nothing too dire or depressing got reported till later, when listeners would presumably be more awake and able to deal. 

Mr. Lurtsema opened his show every morning with a recording of birdsong made (as I recall) somewhere out in western would run for 20 or 30 or 40 seconds, however long he felt like it, and then segue into that morning's theme music (a gentle way of remembering what day of the week it was...I'm still enormously fond of Wednesday's theme, which was from Respighi's Ancient Airs and Dances).  And the main bird song on his tape was that of a hermit thrush.

Have you ever heard a hermit thrush's song?  My Audubon's Field Guide to North American Birds describes it as a "series of clear, musical phrases, each on a different pitch, consisting of a piping introductory note and a reedy tremolo".  That's pretty accurate, as far as it goes...but it doesn't begin to describe the haunting, quiet beauty of its song.  I always think of Pan, propped against a tree in sleepy contentment, idly thinking aloud on his pipes about all that's right in the world.

So when I hear the hermit thrush's song in the spring, I hear the beauty of here and now as well as the memory of safe mornings in my childhood and young adulthood, when "Robert J." would make sure no one was too jarred by the news and Bach and Respighi told me what day it was.  A pleasure small, but deep indeed.


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