Urban living has its advantages. We’re close to cafés, good shopping, arts and culture. But nature tends to get pushed to the margins of our daily experience. We do have our pal Rocky the squirrel who visits the front terrace and buries his nuts in our planter boxes. And there are some cute birds that are finding our little feeder. Also, the birds that visit and live around Lake Merritt are fun to watch — some are pretty exotic, like the herons and pelicans. (As I’m currently directing The Seagull here in Illinois, I’m grateful for the time I was able to spend observing gulls around the lake.) But on the whole, living in the city means that the sites and sounds that dominate our experience are cultural, not natural.
Here in Moline I’m sleeping in an upstairs bedroom in Jon and Sonja’s house. (When I’m not around it’s my niece Kjerstin’s room and it’s decked out in a leopard theme.) It was pretty hot here yesterday (around 80 degrees) and last night was a perfect night for sleeping with the windows open. This morning, a little after 5, I was awakened by the lush sounds of a birdsong symphony in full voice. The sky was beginning to lighten, but the sun hadn’t yet risen. It was a magnificent sound. There was no hint of traffic noise or other city sound playing counterpoint to the birds. It was a full throated expression of nature.
I enjoy birds, trees, pretty skies, a beautiful landscape, and fresh air, but I’m not a hardcore nature addict. I like culture. I enjoy the sounds of a city — honking horns, sirens, people yelling, and the echoing of sound in the canyons of tall buildings. At 5AM, though, I was still in that poetic space between being asleep and awake, and the song of the birds made me ecstatic.