Phenology Journal at the End of Robinsong

I am up before 5:00 a.m., sitting on the back porch, waiting. The waning night is cool, and I have my jacket hood up like a monk waiting for Vigils.

From the middle of March through the day before yesterday, robins chanted at this time, a persistent, singsong chirping. This morning, like yesterday morning, everything is quiet.

The gibbous moon lies overhead, weaving pathways through the lattice of the porch, leavening the sky for sunrise.

I have been so accustomed to the robins’ presence, to their routine and to their purpose. I strain to hear their song, but it is not there. Each year their silence is timed so precisely, almost to the hour, their reading of the sky so exact. Even though I know better, I feel empty, as though none of this will ever come again, as though in this sudden turn of July something irreparable has occurred.

Compensating, I sort through the other impressions. From the half darkness, shapes slowly appear in the garden, the wheelbarrow full of cut grass, the three bird feeders, the birdbath. I can finally see the words on the page of my notebook. I feel my ears getting cold.

The moon shadows fade, and the first cardinal sings at 5:40, the first dove at 5:45. Then cars join in along Dayton Street. The eastern sky grows brighter, and everything seems to be the way it should be. A neighbor’s cat with white feet and chest moves across the yard as though I did not exist. The impatiens in the window box take on their purples and reds by 6:00. Individual flowers appear from the darkness, orange violet day lilies, the first red dahlia of the summer.

The cardinals grow louder. Mosquitoes start to whine around my face and hands. I gather up the new voices and colors and put them in the space of robinsong, filling in the absence until finally my reason takes hold and I regain my balance.

Then more silence as the sun strikes the back trees: no cardinals, no doves. Crows at 6:37 as though nothing were out of place. A blue jay at 7:17.

Bill Felker

1 Comment

  1. bwhereuare

    A beautiful meditation on absence. Lovely blend of mood and Nature. Plus a reminder that beauty never really leaves us.

    Emily Dickinson responds best in:

    I Have a Bird in Spring

    Then I will not repine,

    Knowing that bird of mine

    Though flown

    Shall in a distant tree

    Bright melody for me



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