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Morning Has Broken

And YHWH said, "There is now one people and they all have one language. This is what they have begun to do, and now all that they plan to do will be possible for them. Come, let’s go down and mix up their language there so they won’t understand each other’s language.”Then YHWH dispersed them from there over all of the earth, and they stopped building the city. Therefore, it is named Babel…~ Genesis 11:6-9

Even before the sun rises, the dawn chorus begins. The low, rhythmic hooting of the Great Horned Owl pair duetting kicks it off at the bottom. Nearby, a Ruffed Grouse male has found the perfect log to hop on and provide some percussion. There is a reason it is called drumming when they beat the air with their wings to stake claim to their territory.The sensation is equal parts hearing the beats and feeling them in your chest. Another drummer joins in with sharp staccato strikes of bill on hollow branch in the diagnostic rapid then slow and spaced blows that confirm that a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker has joined the rhythm section. The long first flute-like note followed by rising self-harmonizing notes echoes through the morning woodland announcing that the thrushes will be led by a Hermit Thrush today. As the symphony builds, the colorful jewels in the migration crown, the warblers, begin adding soft melodies. It is as if the trees themselves are singing since these birds, though bright and beautiful, are tiny enough to get lost in the emergent vegetation. Appropriately, the Black-throated Green Warblers lead us with a chorus of “trees, trees, murmuring trees.” The jovial Chestnut-sided Warblers greet the day with their familiar “pleased, pleased, pleased to meet ya’.” Their breathy music seems almost a whisper in the ever-building ensemble. They seem to be singing for an audience of one. Indeed, though they are broadcasting their courtship message, they do so in hope of finding that one female who simply cannot resist. Yet some of the performers appear to be responding to non-avian competition as well. The Louisiana Waterthrush’s love of babbling brooks means that while their fellow warblers sing at piano, their dynamic of choice is forte. Their cousins, the wrens, generally choose fortissimo, perhaps simply to surprise us that such a small being can produce such a loud sound. But the Winter Wren, who often a neighbor to the Louisiana Waterthrush, choose length over volume. Their song is a jumble of notes that work well in most jazz combos, and it goes on and on. It appears to be a strategy of producing enough notes so that some will be heard in the complex mix of sounds that is the normal state of affairs at this time of day at this time of year.

Most astounding is just how all this incessant shouting, chest-thumping, head-banging, babbling, and murmuring never sounds cacophonous. Indeed, it is just the opposite, it is the finest orchestration played by a perfectly balanced, highly skilled symphony. And it is sublime and exceptionally soothing to our ears. Human-created music can’t hold a candle to the diverse improvisational performance offered up freely by the natural world every day, particular at a spring sunrise. Oh, the lessons we might learn just by soaking in this soul nourishment. While we work hard to create and maintain monocultures like our neatly trimmed lawns of fertilized and pesticide-soaked non-native grasses, the rest of creation just naturally celebrates diversity in abundant polyculture.

Prayer: Eternal Conductor, our instruments seem to have gone out of tune and we don’t play well with others, but thank you for your patience in this rehearsal. Can we go over that last section again? We promise to listen to the other performers and not overpower them. OK? Amen.


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