i never stopped to listen

I love red-winged blackbirds.

I’m not sure why. I think it is the bright slash of red on their wing, the little touch that makes them different from crows.

Crows were the bane of my Grandpa Larsen (crows and raccoons).  He didn’t have big fields. He worked really hard.

So crows were bad.

Red-wing blackbirds, on the other hand, were cool. They were bright. They were something to see while driving past swamps.

For decades I have liked them.

Yesterday, Nancy and I walked through a swamp. More accurately, we walked on the boardwalk that allows people to pass through a wetland at Pokagon State Park. We walked quietly, listening.

We heard a bird song that I had never heard. It started with a couple of smooth, three-dimensional notes, then went raspy, like a distorted amplifier, and ended with a note or two.

Nancy saw the red-winged blackbird on the tree above us. As we got closer, we could tell that this new song was from a familiar bird.

I thought about how many things I know. I thought about how many people I know. I thought about how little time I’ve spent listening to either one. This bird that I have said I love, I love for my picture of it, not for its reality, its fullness. And that’s not fair.

Especially now that I have actually heard it.

What you see at 60 mph is far different than what you hear at 0.


For more sounds, click here.


5 responses to “i never stopped to listen

  1. My friend, you are very hard on yourself.

    What I take from this is that you loved this bird, *even though* you hadn’t yet heard its song.

    Maybe you weren’t ready to hear the song before. Maybe what you’ve learned over the last few decades has been about being ready to tune in to it.


  2. a very good maybe, dear friend.

  3. Hi Jon,
    This post made me smile. Not because of the red-wing blackbirds (they are cooler than crows, btw)but because my wife and I stayed at the Potawatomi Inn on our wedding night, 18 years ago. It has always been a special place for us. Thanks for bringing back that nice memory.

  4. Your 0 mph vs. 60 reminded me of this weekend. Two buddies & I hiked near Sedona, AZ. We watched lots of tourists on Jeep tours, as we hiked among the rocks & up the hills. We felt like we got the better deal – smelling the flowers, seeing the tree bark, feeling the dust in our shoes… all close-up.

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