Friday, May 1, 2009


I’ve been hearing a mockingbird sing like crazy lately whenever I make my way through the potholed Shewmaker parking lot. The asphalt there is so riddled with divots and holes that it just about gives me whiplash to drive through it, and with all the rain we’ve been having lately, it’s currently a spectacle of raging rivers and stagnant lakes. "Shouldn't our tuition money be going towards fixing the parking lot so we don't die on our way to school?" a friend asked me the other day. The bird doesn't seem to mind, though, and he keeps singing his heart out, alternating and switching every few seconds to a different loud call. Every time I walk past I look for him up on the radio tower or the telephone lines, but I never actually saw him until Wednesday. He was perched on a high limb of a flowering tree, puffed up in cocky pride, warbling as loud and clear as he could. Then he took off in flight to a blur of white-barred wings, tail fanned cheerfully, still singing although airborne. I had to chuckle at his confidence. “I hope you find a girl,” I told him, amused. “You deserve it.”

I don’t think I would have even been able to identify a mockingbird either by appearance or voice just last year, but after seeing them out here in the country, I’ve realized that they’re dedicated city-dwellers, too, and they seem to particularly love Drury’s campus. It’s funny that after being shown something obvious, you suddenly become aware that it was always there, present in your subconscious, waiting for you to notice.

Mockingbirds always seem so earnest, but there’s a peculiar quality to their song. It’s not authentic, I guess, it’s an imitation, a phony, a fake. The birds are cheeky little thieves, nature's downloaders of pirated music, the famous pop stars who get all the credit but don’t write their own lyrics. A line, as from a song or a poem, came to me—I don’t know if I made it up or heard it somewhere—“It was just me and the mockingbird, singing a borrowed tune.”

Seems like I had a point to this when I started out typing, but I can’t for the life of me recall what it was….I blame the last week of class and finals, which will be here shortly. Yep, that must be it.

And how cool is the picture? It’s a mockingbird…made out of elementary school students.


citizen of the world said...

I love mockingbirds - very friendly. DId you know they also imitate dog barks and other sounds? I don't think of it as stealing, I just think they have a much greater repertoire than other birds.

Mozart said...

The most exotic call I've heard a mockingbird make was that of a redtailed hawk. Gave me a good laugh.