Spring watch

at a ministers’ retreat, Wareham, Mass.

After the high winds died down midday, I went out for a walk in the woods around the retreat center. There were birds everywhere: after spending twenty four hours hunkered down in shelter from the gale, they were out busily feeding and defending their nesting territory. They were so busy that they paid little attention to me. I managed to get within eight feet of a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, a tiny little bird: it was carrying a feather in its bill, presumably to add to its nest. And then I rounded a bend in a trail, just as a Wood Thrush started singing in a tree nearly over my head: that ethereally beautiful call, those four liquid notes, so close: it provoked a deeply emotional response, a surge in my heart, a lift in my spirits, a feeling of sudden intense joy. It sang twice, and flew away, and the moment was over.