Volume 13, Issue 22 ~ June 2 -8, 2005

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by by Gary Pendleton

Wood Thrush

Far in the pillared dark
Thrush music went —
Almost like a call to come in
To the dark and lament.
—Robert Frost: “Come In”

The wood thrush is a forest-dwelling bird slightly smaller than the familiar American robin and similar in shape but not so colorful. This thrush is brown on the back with brown spots on its breast. East of the Mississippi, wood thrushes are common in dense woods, where their remarkable, flute-like song can be heard, especially at dusk in May and June.

That song is one of the most beautiful and musical sounds in nature. I find it both inspirational and humbling to consider that the songs of native birds have sounded here for millions of years. Sadly, it is an experience that is becoming increasingly rare. Forest fragmentation in North America, where the wood thrush nests, and loss of habitat in its winter territory in Central and South America have severely reduced populations over my century.

My grandparents’ generation was more familiar with the song, hearing it in their yards and gardens as well as in nearby woods.

Henry David Thoreau — who shared the era of my great-great-grandparents — noticed the song of the thrush in the woods around Concord, Massachusetts.

His take on the thrush’s song is an eloquent reminder of nature’s power to heal and renew.

The thrush alone declares the wealth and vigor that is the forest.

Whenever a man hears it he is young and nature is in her spring.

Whenever he hears it

It is a new world and a free country and the gates of heaven are not shut against him.”

This evening, and until the end of the month, somewhere nearby a thrush will be calling into the pillared dark.

It might sound like a call to “come in and lament,” as Frost said. Or it might evoke Thoreau’s lofty sentiments.

It doesn’t matter. Whatever the song of the thrush evokes in your heart is bound to be good for you.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.