Thoughts on Songs for Birds

Painted Lady

Painted Lady

(All the photographs in this post were taken at Lurie Garden, Millennium Park, Chicago on a couple afternoons last week…and have nothing to do with the content.)

It was a somewhat quiet weekend, with plenty of time to sleep and reflect. I had only one mission, and that was to drive into the city on Saturday morning to take my guitars in to Chicago Fretworks for repair. I have been thinking about doing this for years, only to somehow talk myself out of it with that inner voice that asked, “When are you going to find the time to play?” and knowing full well that after not having played for more years than I care to admit, it would be worse than riding a bicycle after a long absence, for the frustration of trying to build up calluses on my left fingertips alone.

Clouded Sulphur Lurie 8-5-15-8464

Clouded Sulphur

But a number of forces have converged to light the fire under me to start playing my guitars again. Perhaps the most significant force is a need to respond to all the insanity. It has been and will always be wonderful to play piano, but I miss the guitar for the intimacy of cradling an instrument on my lap, with the vibrations of the strings going right through me. This is how I will write songs again. Only this time, they will be songs for birds.

Common Green Darner

Common Green Darner

I trust the indoor crowd will bear with me while I regain enough facility to sound not too bad. I have fewer expectations of any prowess than I did when I went back to playing piano, so it shouldn’t be too humiliating. Then there lurks in the back of my mind the thought that eventually, weather permitting, I could play music for wild birds again. Even if it means coming downtown on a weekend, I would love to play music for my crows. And by that time have something else to sing for them besides “There is Nothing Like a Crow” to the Rodgers and Hammerstein tune for “There is Nothing Like a Dame.”

Twelve-Spotted Skimmer

Twelve-Spotted Skimmer

The forces that have converged? I am giving credit at this point only to the positive ones. Falling in love with David Wax Museum. Not wishing I was young and on the road again, just finding so much in their music to explore and connect with. The music is infectious, and David Wax’s lyrics are often priceless. Personal Anthems.

Hearing Mavis Staples interviewed twice on NPR: she talked about singing protest songs for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The sense that music had a purpose beyond music. I don’t necessarily aim to inspire anyone, but I feel the need to protest the insanity. To make noise. And this is the only true way I know how.

American Lady

American Lady

If there can be any silver lining in the disappointing fact that Operation Rubythroat’s excursion to Guatemala in November–which I was looking forward to–has been canceled due to lack of participation, I will have more time to play the guitars and the cost of rebuilding my Guild 12-string will be less painful!

Monarch on Swamp Milkweed

Monarch on Swamp Milkweed

Making music is good for an old body, too. All the pains and inconvenient stiffnesses that were making my life miserable, no doubt in a negative response to the insanity, seem to be floating outward, released, wafting in the air, or in the case of swimming, lost to the water in the pool… I can almost fly. If nothing else, my heart will soar. With the birds.

P.S. The pictures in this post are not related to the topic but I suspect they’re not totally unrelated either?

Wasps in the Rattlesnake Master

Wasps in the Rattlesnake Master

12 thoughts on “Thoughts on Songs for Birds

    • Ha ha. Can’t be less birds, I have at least 35 at home. I’m just too lazy to go driving around in the heat looking for shorebirds in far and distant places. Anyway the blog was supposed to be about birds and Music. Thanks, HJ!

    • Oh thank you so much. I’m sorry about the trip too, and hope that by the time it’s offered again I can still go. As for the guitars, the classical is ready to be picked up and I can hardly wait until Saturday.

  1. Beautiful photos. It’s always good to get back to playing guitar! Even better that your audience will be birds. Get to it, I say. Your joy depends on it. 😀

    PS – I vowed to pick up guitar again one day, but my kids have other plans for me. For now.

    • Thanks, Shannon! Yeah, I don’t know why, suddenly I’m excited about it, which I guess is required or I wouldn’t be obsessed enough to do it. …I bet your kids would like your playing, if you shared it with them!

      • They do like my playing…that’s the problem! When I start strumming and singing, it’s hard to put it down. It’s a real distraction to things that need to get done. LOL

  2. Good luck! You have the perfect diversion from the heat. Sorry to hear about the trip cancellation, but your excitement for other things comes through in this post. Glad to hear it!

    • Thanks for your kind comment, Frank. I think I just need to respond to the constant assault of unbelievable information I call insanity without succumbing to despair. I already feel better for having put in half an hour or so with the classical guitar. And I think I’m going to have a killer grip with my left hand soon! 🙂

  3. Enjoy your time with the guitar. What you say reminds me of what happened when our older son studied guitar in school. He became obsessed with it, carried it around with him and played it all the time. His teacher told me there is a part of the brain that needs music. That part of his brain had been starved and it was making up for lost time. Judy and I are not musical, unless you include my spontaneous bursts of song (which my kids would not). Oh, and nice butterfly pics!

    • Thanks for your input, Jason. It’s hard for me to be objective about music since I probably started hearing it long before I was born and it’s always been the core of my existence, but I do know it’s saved me many times. And you don’t have to play an instrument to be moved by music although it does enrich your experience. Bursting into song counts in my book!

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