Off the Porch: The miracle of a singing bird

Apr. 17, 2013 @ 03:07 PM

Life is hectic these days, of that there is no doubt. Sometimes we just need to stop and spend a little time thinking about what’s really valuable. I know I’m truly blessed. I also know I don’t think about it enough. It’s easy to get wrapped up in all the things in our lives and ignore all the little blessings that make life truly worth living. We look, but we don’t notice, we hear, but we don’t listen. With all the technology in our lives, we just don’t have time to see the wonders around us.
My Daddy loved spring. He was a farmer in his heart and he loved the time he spent in the dirt. I’ve always been a bigger fan of fall, maybe because that’s when the best outdoor action starts. I relish spring and the change of the season, but fall’s always been my favorite.
This year, spring seems a little sweeter. Maybe because I’m getting older, and the cold bothers me more; maybe because my nature is changing and I relish the blossoming out of new life that spring represents; maybe it’s because of the recent blast of cold weather we had two weeks back, but this spring seems especially nice.
This week, I was sitting on my front porch enjoying the end of the day. I had a cool drink and my rocking chair was facing across the drive and towards the pond. In the distance, I appreciated the cooing of a mourning dove. You might not think I am sensitive to such things, but I love the sound of singing birds. My favorite is the mocking bird, but for some reason they never seem to like my yard. They are forever hanging around my shop, up the road, and sometimes I listen to their set of songs trying to catch when the repeat comes. If you listen to enough mocking birds, you’ll realize that they sing a whole set of songs, three verses each until they sing their whole repertoire, then they repeat the set of songs in the same order.
On Thursday, I was listening to the dove, and contemplating the life of my paternal grandfather. William Franklin Jones was born in 1877 and he died in 1934. His life was brief, as are the lives of many of us. At this point, I’ve lived four years longer than him. At every family reunion, my Uncle Ira said I was the only person in the family who looked like him. For some reason, in my mind as a young man, this made me feel special. It made me feel more connected to him. At the height of the depression, he died of consumption, possibly lung cancer, possibly tuberculosis. He saw the world change. He was born in the times of horse and train travel and lived to see cars and airplanes.
Since he died during the depression, there was no money for an elaborate headstone. His headstone was a cast concrete block with his name and year of birth and death cast into it. When Grandma Jones died, the family got together and purchased a proper headstone for Grandma and him. I own the cast concrete headstone now, my neighbor found it in a pile of rubble that had been pushed into the woods behind the house we lived in when I was born. It rests on the decking in front of my house now.
I looked at Grandpa Jones’ stone and contemplated his life. I hoped, at some point, late in his life, he felt the same quiet satisfaction and peace I was feeling at that moment. My thoughts were interrupted again by the cooing of the dove. I wondered why his call was so mournful. I knew it had something to do with mating and rearing young. As I thought this, another dove cut up the meadow and across the pond.  Her swift and steady flight through the trees was amazing to watch.  She seemed to be doing 60 miles an hour but her flight was smooth and graceful, dipping and swerving effortlessly to the cedars where I imagined her nest was. I didn’t hear any more cooing and I assumed the mournful call of her mate had directed her back to the nest. I assumed he was as happy now as I was. It was reassuring that God always provides something in our lives to be happy about, we just have to notice it and appreciate it. I was sure that Grandpa Jones had happy, satisfied times in his life, even though the last years of his life were during some of the darkest times in the history of the United States.
Times today are tough. Our lives are filled with worries. There are even more blessings in our lives to give us hope and gratitude. If you’re feeling down, maybe you should spend a little more time on the porch listening to the birds. If you don’t have a porch, call me and I’ll arrange a time for you to sit on mine, provided you promise you’ll appreciate what you see and hear.
Some of you may think what I said about mocking birds and their repertoire of songs isn’t true. I can assure you that it is, and I invite you to listen to the next mocking bird you hear until you can pick out the repetition. I promise that by the time you figure out that he’s started his set of songs over again you’ll feel better and happier.
Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. He’s a member of the board of directors of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. If you’d like to have him speak to your group, he can be reached at