November 29, 2010 by wcobserver
By Joe Neal
I was out at Lake Fayetteville last week. I saw coots and a few grebes, and heard Canada Geese that I couldn’t. Wind-wise it was calm, and for our endlessly busy northwest Arkansas. I heard YA HONK YA HONK, punctuated by a deep, booming, resonating base: basso profondo. That voice resonates the whole world, at least the part I can see and hear. Basso is the first chair bass goose in a great choir.
Just behind me and all around is another choir: robins. There are 10 acres of caroling, chuckling, and some singing. They’re in honey suckle bushes plucking red berries, chugging down hackberries from up in trees. In bunches of 5-6 and 10, they perch and vocalize away. There is welcome light above the trees by 8:00, and more robins flying in from the blue north in dozens, all silver underneath, reflecting new sun.
I heard soft WHO WHOs of a female Great Horned Owl when I first arrived. Now I hear raucous CAWs of 5 excited American Crows, coming from the same area. All the cawing tells me they found ‘em an owl. Little better defines our crows and our part of this universe than owl parties. The resulting uproar of crows and owl adds charm to the landscape. Mall and freeway may not be far away, but it remains a wild place with an owl and a pack of hyper excited crows.
Beyond geese, robins, and an owl-crow event lay brushy old fields. In the bright fall sunlight, Fox Sparrows sing the morning: sure cheer CHEER WEE WEE cheerEE. Then, from thickets, when I try to move in for a close look, they give their calls: CHOCK CHOCK.
I have been thinking about the earth and how our community changes since the memorial for my old friend, Eleanor Johnson, who passed at 99. I knew her for 40 years. In her long life among us, she helped any down-and-out person and many organizations, too. Her motto was, “One person’s problem is every person’s problem.” She was the widow of a University professor, and at his sudden and unexpected death, El could have just kept the insurance money for herself. Instead, she walked the walk. She helped where help was needed. She listened to the needs of others and acted in their behalf.
Those robins may not know it in particular, but I think in the broader scheme of our universe, they sing for people like her, for the generous and kind-hearted who notice the world is a complex place, and leave it better than they found it. I think robins celebrate a life well and fully lived.