I had a Failure To Launch moment recently. You remember that movie, with Matthew McConnaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker about commitmentphobes? I’m no shrinking violet when it comes to commitment (in fact sometimes I’m so committed to things that I oughta be committed). Nope, that’s not the part of the movie that I’ve been identifying with lately. It’s the subplot that revolves around Zoey Deschanel’s character, who’s being tortured throughout the film by the call of a very active mockingbird right outside her bedroom window.
This summer has, so far, been pretty mild. But it’s still hot enough that I need a little breeze. The house is just too hot and stagnant otherwise. So I don’t often sleep with the windows shut. But lately not only have I been doing exactly that (and sweltering because of it), I’ve been considering earplugs because of one single, solitary bird that lives in my backyard.
This bird, just like the one in Failure To Launch, doesn’t have many social graces, and certainly doesn’t respect the city ordinance requiring that one keep the noise down from 10pm to 7am. More often than not lately, I have been jolted out of a perfectly lovely sleep by the numerous calls of this bird at around 4am. To quote Deschanel’s character, “What the hell kind of devil bird chirps at night?!”And the mockingbird continues, on and on, until long after I’ve left for work, serenading the neighborhood with at least 15 or more separate bird calls.
That’s the thing about mockingbirds. They mock. (Here’s the part where I’m going to get into trouble). I’m talking about male mockingbirds. Unlike males of the homosapien variety, they’re very good listeners. But just like those pesky homosapien males, mockingbirds are constantly on the prowl for a female companion. And females are suckers for males who know how to sing a wide repertoire of songs. Some mockingbirds have an arsenal of over 150 calls with which to woo a mate.
I feel sorry for this mockingbird, because although he has quite a songbook, I think he’s still on his own. So he keeps singing away. And it’s not just other bird calls. Like the raven (which can imitate the sound of a rain drop plopping into a puddle or a crying baby), mockingbirds will imitate other sounds they hear frequently. Mine imitates car alarms, the chirp of a smoke detector in need of a new battery, and most amazingly, croaking frogs. It’s the incessant smoke detector that really gets me. Really gets to me.
This bird has really wormed its way into my brain. I’m not going to head down to Jones Fort and try to buy myself a 12 gauge shotgun with just one shell to dispatch the bird in my backyard, although there are mornings when I want to throw open the back door and yell at it to Shaddup! (But what if it learned to imitate my extremely-annoyed-at-4-in-the-morning-voice? Then I’d really be in trouble.)
So here’s the weird thing. Lately, I’ve been pulling & playing music out of the JPR cd library that seems to contain a strangely large amount of bird-related themes. It’s not intentional, at least not on my part. I randomly chose a Mark O’Connor disc to play last week as I was putting back a Carl Orff work, and there it was…The Call of the Mockingbird. Then on Stravinsky’s birthday (same as my dad’s – June 17th), I wanted to play something to celebrate the occasion, and I realized I’d chosen The Firebird Suite.
I’m not beyond thinking that perhaps some kind of subliminal message has been worked into my subconscious. Chalk it up to sleep deprivation if you want, but I wouldn’t be surprised if my music choices lately (I even played The Wild Dove by Dvorak and On Hearing The First Cuckoo of Spring by Delius) are actually being orchestrated by one very sly bird who’s been repeating messages to me over and over again as I innocently slumber. I wouldn’t be surprised at all.
Enjoy today’s playlist, my friends. It’s totally for the birds. I’m actually including two of them. Because one in the hand is worth two in the… oh nevermind. One is for the Classical fans (and includes the actual music I’ve been playing recently on Siskiyou Music Hall on the Classics & News Service of Jefferson Public Radio, while the other represents more modern music, the kind of playlist I might be sharing if I was hosting Open Air on the Rhythm & News Service of Jefferson Public Radio.
Just a little footnote before I go. This morning, I woke up at 4:15. To the sound of silence. No call of the mockingbird. No frogs. No smoke detector. Yet I’ve gotten so used to being jolted awake at this time every morning that I was up anyway. And you know what? I missed the little birdbrain. I’m sure he’ll be back tomorrow. At least I hope so. But don’t tell tell him I said that.
- Call Of The Mockingbird – Mark O’Connor
- Swan Song – Franz Schubert
- The Wild Dove – Antonin Dvorak
- On Hearing the First Cuckoo of Spring – Frederic Delius
- Cloud of Birds Polka – Emile Waldteufel
- The Swan – Camille Saint-Saens
- Chant du Rossignol – Igor Stravinsky
- Adolf von Henselt – If I were a bird
- Hens & Cocks – Camille Saint-Saens
- Firebird Suite – Igor Stravinsky
- The Nightengale – Natalie Dessay
- The Nightengale – Isabelle Moretti
- Pan et Les Oiseaux – Jules Mouquet
- Mockingbird – James Taylor & Carly Simon
- 3 Little Birds – Bob Marley
- Blackbird – Sarah McLachlan
- Mystery Angel -Xavier Rudd
- Free Bird – Lynyrd Skynyrd
- Birdland – Manhattan Transfer
- Rockin’ Robin – Bobby Darin
- Mr. Meadowlark – Bing Crosby & Johnny Mercer
- Songbird – Eva Cassidy
- Carvin’ The Bird – Charlie Parker
- A Nightengale Sang in Barkley Square – Manhattan Transfer
- Bluebird – Sara Bareilles
- I Am Like A Bird – Nelly Furtado
- Hummingbird – Wilco
- Bluebird – Christina Perri
- Ethiobirds – Andrew Bird
- Bird Song – Florence & The Machine
- When Doves Cry – Prince & The Revolution
- Birds – Elton John
- Little Bird – Eels
- Raven – Jewel
- Little Bird – Annie Lennox
- Fly Robin Fly – Silver Convention
- Fly Like An Eagle – Steve Miller Band
- Two Birds – G. Love
- I Like Birds – The Eels
- Surfin Bird – The Trashmen
Valerie Ing-Miller has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for nine years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She’s the mother of a teenage daughter and a 7-year-old West Highland Terrier, and can’t imagine life without them or music. Valerie wakes up with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.
A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.