I’m up late tonight. I watched the great old movie, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” until well after midnight, and because going to bed means trying to Sleep While Tossing, I’ve stayed up, waiting for another dose of Tramadol and Tylenol to kick in.
So it’s very quiet. The TV is off. The only sounds are the quiet click of my laptop’s keyboard, the occasional car passing on the nearby road, and my elderly cat-friend’s snore as he snoozes, curled up against my hip. Oh, and one other sound: the strange, melodic chirp and trill of a bird as it sings outside.
“Strange” because it’s so unusual to hear birdsong in the wee hours of the night. So I listen, charmed, with a half smile on my lips, remembering the last time I heard a bird singing in the dark.
It was about 20 years ago. It was unusual then, too—unusual enough that it became a cherished memory. Early in the early spring and late fall mornings, before the sun rose, I’d be up, taking a hot shower as I got ready for work. I’d open the window in spite of the cold to let the steam out. And it was then that I’d hear him, a blackbird singing an intricate, liquid melody so lilting and fine that I’d have to stand still and just listen for a while, enchanted and knowing that I was hearing something extraordinary, something I might never hear again.
Remembering evokes the sharp sting of cold air invading my steamed-up bathroom and the invigorating scent of the nearby sea it carried on it. Remembering brings me fog horns lowing in the harbor, and the clack-clackety of the train on the elevated tracks a few blocks away from my flat as it slowed, approaching the downtown station, and of that train’s long, lonely whistle. It’s a sound that has always meant “Come, let’s go, let’s go see other places and other people. Let’s find an adventure,” to me, and makes me long to do just that. Remembering the nightsong of that small, unseen blackbird makes me smile again, just as it did every time I heard it, just as enchanting now, tonight, as it was two decades ago.
I’ll go to bed now. The mysterious singer has gone quiet in the here and now, but he left me with a gift: a lovely memory of that earlier singer and that earlier time in my life.
Of trains and the excitement of traveling into the unknown for the sheer joy of it.