Greatest next to man,
Trees – historians of life,
– Patricia Ann Casey
Sit down with me. Take any seat. There in the garden, there are five Adirondak chairs, Christian made them a few years ago. They are very comfortable.
Behind me, there are the enormous Catalpa trees, Catalpa speciosa. I call them orchid trees. They lean away from the setting sun. Their long dry pods click in the soft pulse of a breeze. The casings hold the flat seed eyes that look to the coming spring.
Nearby, on each side of the tall cedar picket entrance two American basswoods, Tilia americana, bloom with health. They chime in with the wind, softly so softly. A long ribbon of fibrous bark hangs down from a branch in decoration. It is retted and ready.
It will line the nest of the flying squirrels. They move only at midnight, flying in secret caravans.
In front of me, the perennial flower border clings onto the last of the daylight that lingers in fluorescence from the phlox. A flicker of red matches a darker central bee, with white and pink. The moths move in, tongues and wings threaded with twilight.
Fragrance cascades in tides of scent flushing riches about our feet.
Absolutely still we begin to listen to the night. We are separated by two chairs. Silent. Suddenly a brave cricket begins to conduct a symphony of sound. The sharp snap of a dragonfly holds a note of surprise. The cicadas drone in sullen submission from the walnut allée of Juglans nigra. High up the branches hold the spectral presence of tree frogs who wait for the sinking sun to greet each other with priestly punctuation. The sounds spill down from the incense of the canopy to cover the earth.
Suddenly the first nighthawk, Chordeiles minor, arrives as if by magic tracing his perfect form into the sky, moving his tidiness of body feathers close as if to make room for his mate in the vast heavens above our heads. Tingling with ecstasy, the young siblings pour their energy into effort. They fly against a singular cloud cushion in their cerulean lair. Their twitter falls in perfect pitch to us, clear and crisp as a whistle.
As more light is released into darkness, a whip-poor-will, Caprimulgus vociferus, smudges the scene with a repetition of its song turning the notes over and into the rhythmic sounds of the night. This is the chorus of the nocturnal waking of the day. The song shifts and emerges hiding, again and again. The music captures nowhere and blends it into everywhere in the velvet darkness.
Then the barred owls, Strix varia, bare their chests speaking in eight haloed hoots of worldly wisdom. Softly and in contra-tone the parents cast a bell of speckled speech to their youngsters listening in their wooden cavity. Their hollow home drums the sound into a circle of sylvan song. The family becomes whole with the resonance of their dark music. Far away, the coyote king has heard… He calls his troops to run and roam.
A bagpipe of cicadas drone their mission in the night air. A fracas of frogs breaks open their own silence into a greeting of their township, a tree bark. The ravens rattle and pop their explosions of conversation from the highest beams of the barn.
A benediction of nature winds the night around us in an embrace. These sounds of the soul fill us with the poetry of the forest. This is the wilderness of the night, as beautiful as truth itself. It is the soundscape woven from nature with threads of twilight and silver streams from a buttercup moon lighting our way to look at the stars.
© Diana Beresford-Kroeger 2021