I find myself watching the trees this year, the trees in the courtyard where I live, the trees along the streets and avenues of the City, the trees in the river valley, wild and feral, native and planted.
One evening while cooking my supper, I take down my binoculars and look for the baby robin I can hear si-si-si-si-ing from the direction of the huge poplar fifteen feet from my patio. Finally, I spot its speckled-rust breast bobbing up and down on the green grass, still learning how to find its own supper. The stress of my hectic work day shifts.
On my way to work one morning, I walk up to the grooved trunk of a black ash tree, stare into a smooth bore hole, where I know in past years there have been nuthatch nests. I find myself wishing for a beak to appear, wanting a chick, but see only a parent scouting up and down the bark, hunting for bugs. My mind stills.
Out riding my bike along the river, two Sundays in a row, I keep hearing a high-pitched chorus of ki-ki-ki-ki coming from an old willow by the water. The second time, I stop my bike, find the tree, and spot two one-inch entrance holes about a foot apart, on a dead limb as thick as my arm. I wait, not long, till the father, a downy woodpecker with a red dot on the side of his head, comes to check the chicks. They keep whinnying after he leaves; I whinny inside my chest, thrilled all the way home to have been so close to their small life cries.
I’ve been watching, too, as some elm, Manitoba maple, and ash along the City’s boulevards and in the valley have succumbed to drought this spring and failed to leaf. Some of them thick and old; some of them young.
This is a dividing time, this few months between the melt of snow and the full heat of summer, when new leaf and new-born struggle towards the light. It’s made me want to turn off the radio some nights, forego the news, to hear the sounds of creatures beyond my windows. To steal a day without plans, and if not a day, then at least a few hours. To mount my bike or head out on foot to see what gift I might find. To eat or sleep or read or do anything by near-instinct. To seek the company of those I love. To really listen to what it is I need.