It’s 5:00 a.m. when I hear the baby crying. The house is still dark, with only a hint of light on the horizon. Yet, it is still enough to excite the wood thrush, and I listen for a second as he wakens the world with his flute-like melodies. “Ee-Oo-Lay!” over and over it repeats, music to my ears. No human has yet achieved what the wood thrush has mastered for centuries, i.e., the ability to produce two sounds at once, creating a duet of harmonies echoing with all their breath through their vocal chambers. So much music from such a small and fragile creature.
The baby is frightened, of what I do not know. I cuddle him a bit, change his diaper, and he gazes at me with a grin. All is well now, and he is ready to play. But it is still 3 hours from his regular waking time, and I know the consequences it will bring if I let myself be enticed by that playful smile and those eager eyes. I carry him back to his dark room, lay him gently in his crib, and stroke his forehead. He whimpers a bit, knowing what is next, but does not fight. He, too, I think, knows that now is not the time for play. He closes his eyes and I gently shut the door.
The house is still now, and other than the baby, I am the only one in it. The rest of my family is scattered. One son at Grandma’s next door, where he spent the night probably staying up too late and eating too much popcorn. One son 400 miles away, in St. Louis, visiting old friends with his Daddy and having big adventures with his grandparents while Daddy works. Tomorrow, Lord willing, we will all be reunited again, but for now, it is just me and the morning and the wood thrush.
I head out to the garden, baby monitor in one pocket, pocket knife in the other. The garden has been neglected for a week and the crab grass and squash bugs now have the advantage. I open the gas tank on the tiller. There isn’t much gas in it and I debate whether or not to add more. However, it is a long walk back to the garage to get the gas can, and so I say a little prayer that there will be just enough, set the choke, and yank the pull cord hard. The tiller coughs and sputters but finally starts.
As I work my way down the rows, I get lost in my thoughts. Seeing the weeds overtaking my row of flowers gives me a story idea. In many moments of my days, there is a story idea, but I rarely follow their leads. Perhaps this one will be different.
The green beans hang from vines, ready to be picked, but not today. Time is running out, the baby will awake again soon. I shuttle the tiller back to the shed, running on fumes. One prayer answered already, and the day has just begun. I close the garden gate and walk through the cobwebs down the wooded path, back to the house. The spiders waste no time each night rebuilding their walls of web and waiting for an unsuspecting gnat or, in my case, human, to blunder into them. I pass our little statue of the Blessed Mother and notice that the flowers in the Mason jar have turned brown. With only a minute to spare, I backtrack to the field, pull out the pocket knife, and pick a hasty bouquet of Queen Anne’s lace and Black-eyed Susans. Returning to the statue, I tuck the flowers into their jar and tell her good morning. Her arms, always open, give me a spiritual hug. I look at the three graves around her, nearly covered with summer-growing vines, and imagine her standing with my three children, arms around them, waiting for me.
The sun is above the trees now and I can feel the heat of the day pushing hard against the edge of morning. I step up onto the front porch, pull off my boots and look east. The wood thrush is silent now and will sing no more today. Let the day begin.