Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Montrose Morning: birds and the planes overhead

If you rise early on spring morning and join the hushed throng of birders at Montrose Harbor you will hear a loud chorusing of migratory and native birds.  It is greatest free event Chicago has to offer. The birds are mostly invisible within the shrubby shelter of the Magic Hedge whose sole magic is the unexpectedly high density of birds who stop off there after long voyages.

Close your eyes; soak it all in. The birds call each to each, and the wind rustles the leaves of the Magic Hedge and out across the grasses of the sanctuary’s minuscule savanna.  If it rains, listen to drops as they fall on thousands of leafy umbrellas and softly percuss upon the soil.  As your ears attune, and the orbit of your attention radiates, you hear wave after wave roll in and softly break upon the adjacent lake shore.  Do they not lend to your reverie a mesmerizing rhythm? Can you believe that you are in the city? The world is all birdsong, and you are all ears.  Is this why not you were given ears: to immerse yourself for these seconds in the company of birds and hedge and grass and waves and raindrops?

A murmur swells, and now there is a slight shuffling of feet, pencils scratch on paper, and then a riot of clicks and camera whirs. “Did you see it, did you see it?”, they whisper. The birders have spotted a rarity. Is it a Kirtland's Warbler? A dozen fingers gesture, but for the life of you, you still can’t see the feathery cause of their excitement.

You close your eyes again, but the spell has been broken. Now instead of the gentle beat of waves on the shore, you hear the hum of traffic on Lake Shore Drive, a pretty but noisy expressway that runs parallel to the lake, no more than half a mile away. Above you an aircraft growls in low over the water preparing to land in O’Hare to the west. And then yet another comes in. Now that’s your attention has been drawn to it the morning chorusing of aircraft is no less busy, though certainly less beautiful, than that of the birds. Your pastoral dream has been broken; yes, yes, you are in the city.

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