Benediction and Badinage

XCIV
High from the earth I heard a bird;
He trod upon the trees
As he esteemed them trifles,
And then he spied a breeze,
And situated softly
Upon a pile of wind
Which in a perturbation
Nature had left behind.
A joyous-going fellow
I gathered from his talk,
Which both of benediction
And badinage partook,
Without apparent burden,
I learned, in leafy wood
He was the faithful father
Of a dependent brood;
And this untoward transport
His remedy for care,—
A contrast to our respites.
How different we are!

~Emily Dickinson

It finally feels like spring is about to visit the Shenandoah Valley. The world still looks groggy and half-asleep, the grass dead, the leaves mulch on the forest floor. It doesn’t look like spring, but the air is beginning to carry that lightness that means flowers will soon be blooming, bees buzzing. Soon the world will come alive again, resurrecting from the muck of winter.

The birds’ songs have shifted, too. They sound different in the spring. There are new visitors, of course, swinging by on their northern migrations, but the birds that remain here through the winter sound different, too, as if they’re unleashing their most golden notes to meet the newly gilded light that pours across the mountain ridges as the sun sets blessedly later.

I had never come across this poem before, but I love it. It came just when I needed it. Life has been hectic lately–one kid in a regional competition, the other working on not one but two major projects at school within days of each other, animals due for vet appointments, humans due for dental appointments, no hope of a haircut in sight, fruit trees and grapevines in need of pruning before the temperatures set their sap flowing.

Life has felt overly crammed. It’s all good stuff, but there’s a heck of a lot of it. There’s a lot of racing around, not a lot of sleeping. I need to channel the outlook of the bird in this poem, his jaunty attitude, his ability to at once engage in benediction and badinage. He’s a parent, too, and of an entire brood. If he can do it–if he can sing despite his cares–then maybe I can, too.

Maybe we are not so different, after all.

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