Listening to the Birds

Listening to the Birds

Imagine a time
when children stopped
to listen to birdsong,
hearing the ancient call
more or less forgotten
in our modern day world.

I remember the song
and music that rose
from a robin one autumn,
as I sat and watched it
singing to the world
and to me a child poet.

Even now I recollect
entering the wildwood
with other rapt souls,
one summer evening,
to watch the sky maiden
slip on her pink robe.

Everything in the wood
had something to say
that magical night
as we rested for a while,
hushed with wonder,
listening to the birds.

As we turned to leave,
a hundred starlings
rose from a single oak
into flushed clouds,
heading for open sky,
murmuring as they flew.

I realise how birdsong,
held in children’s eyes,
inspired me to learn
how to fly and sing,
by taking pen to paper
and creating my wings.

Summoned by the soul
to work with gravity
for a number of years,
I lifted up heavy wings,
until a midlife flight
into nature’s embrace.

From the ends of the earth
the birds came singing,
bringing back airs
of grace and beauty,
harmonious melodies
that soothed the soul.

The poetry of blackbirds
gave this poet wings,
filling me with warmth,
peace and quietude,
while my pen pulsed
with orchestral rhythm.

When feeling sad
or disconnected I turned
to the nightingale,
whose melodic notes,
music of the moon,
always melted my heart.

Like a wren I rose,
cheerful, clear and bright
on graceful wings,
a moment of full song,
notes flung in the air,
sunlight everywhere.

Now as poet and raven
I fly between worlds,
forever shape-shifting,
above and below
on transcendent wings,
listening to the birds.


Copyright © Deborah Gregory 2018
Image credit: John Dumont 1885 “Listening to the Birds”

22 thoughts on “Listening to the Birds

  1. Trascendent, beautiful… sublime poem. It feels like a sort of cosmogony with mimetic traits.

    The birds singing, the poet’s new beginning… voices raising.

    As I read along I thought of Heraclitus’ Panta Rei…. everything is implicitly connected.

    Great reading, dear Deborah. Sending love and best wishes ❤️

    1. Thank you so much Aquileana for your beautiful and inspiring comment. For my words to be even a little compared to Panta Rhei is a huge compliment to this poet indeed! I’ve always admired Heraclitus’ commitment to the unity of opposites in his writings and treasure this fragment … “the path up and down are one and the same.” As always, I’m very much looking forward to your next mythological essay! Love and light, Deborah x

  2. I love your fifth stanza, but the entire poem was such a treat bringing me back memories of childhood rambles. Thankfully I still hear birdsong when I’m hiking in the woods, but it is getting harder to hear anywhere else.

    1. Thank you so much Bespoke Traveler for your wonderful reply. I’m fortunate to be able to open my windows at home and hear beautiful birdsong pretty much all year round, less so in the summer months … yet in the spring it rises to a crescendo! Ancient woodlands were firstly my childhood playground, and now they return as mid-life playgrounds too. With warm autumnal wishes, Deborah.

  3. Thank you for the beautiful reminder of one of nature’s dearest joys. My return to Florida after a summer in the mountains–where birdsong punctuated my musings from moment to moment—has been a return to my indoorsy nature and forgotten melodies. It’s still too hot here to open the windows, so I write in complete silence….except for the white noise of the air-conditioner. Still, I write on, but your heartfelt poem has aroused my longing for nature’s music.

    “The Mountains are calling and I must go…” John Muir

    We’ll return in a few weeks to see the fall leaves and I’ll think of you as I savor every sweet tweet!

    1. Thank you so much Jeanie for momentarily leaving your (writer’s) cave and gifting me such a beautiful, rich review on my poem. I agree, birdsong is indeed one of nature’s greatest joys! I love the poetic way you describe how each song punctuated your musings this summer in the mountains.

      Last week I returned from 10 glorious days in the mountains myself in the northern lands of our beautiful island. Heaven on earth! What a great Muir quote, I love it! Enjoy your autumn trip and I hope your new spiritual book continues to take its divine shape. Love and light, Deborah.

  4. Ahh, the innocent wonder we have in childhood – I know that even though I was brought up on the edge of a city, I found my peace and wonder back then in the limited nearby wild spaces where I played and marvelled at the wildlife and birds around me. As I grew that connection was lost for years as I made (and lost) my way in the world until, as I entered my mid-life, I rediscovered the pure joy and wonder of nature, revelling in the simple pleasure of opening my windows to the dawn chorus or being transfixed watching birds of prey on downland walks and subsequently the rediscovery of my own creative nature.

    Deborah, your beautifully crafted words remind me so much of this journey and yes, with birdsong all around my soul cannot help but be lifted to a new level. Now as the autumn chill comes each morning I see the birds busily eating the berries and seeds left on the edgelands by my house, singing their autumn tune as they ready themselves for the coming winter, a time of going within. Thank you Deborah and may the wonder of listening to the birdsong always be with us.

    1. Thank you so much Sophia for your beautiful, encouraging words on my new poem. I love the vintage photo above … the children’s sense of curiosity, innocence and wonder is palpable! You’ve reminded me re growing up in the city of one of Aesop’s fables … The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse … and how each other’s abode and way of living wasn’t for the other and yet what you’ve shared will resonate with many city dwellers. Such an inspiring tale of individuation and integration.

      As a country mouse my childhood was vastly different to city life … as crop fields, fruit orchards, hop gardens, ancient wildwoods and farmsteads were my hallowed playgrounds. I didn’t know it then but I know it now … how was very fortunate it was for me to grow up so close to Mother Nature’s loving, earthy embrace. Like you, and many others I lost that connection until my midlife correction.

      I have yet to read it, and it was written many years ago but a book that keeps coming up in recent conversations is “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson. I’ve heard great things about this seminal book. Love and light, Deborah.

      1. Yes, it is mentioned I think in J A Bakers “The Peregrine” as the pesticide use had such a devastating effect on the bird population…it is a book I meant to read but had forgotten in a senior moment, so thank you Deborah for reminding me, I’m putting it on my wishlist now!! Many blessings, Sophia

        1. Thanks for the nudge! Another great “nature” book published around the same time as the above photograph was taken was “The Story of My Heart” by Richard Jefferies … which I highly recommend. Some describe it as “a soul awakening.”

  5. The echoes in your poem are beautiful.. A red, remembered sunset, birds singing, children listening. Then a robin, starling, blackbird, nightingale and wren all turn up and sing. Here’s a poem bursting with beauty! Well done Deborah.

    1. Thank you so much mariquitta for your warm, kind-hearted response to my nature poetry! As a child those magical, pink sunsets and birds singing were truly awesome and so inspiring. Originally, I wanted to write a verse on each of my favourite birds … but after writing a list of over thirty birds I decided to narrow it down, considerably! With warm autumnal wishes, Deborah.

  6. May your pen keep pulsing pure poetry Deborah and may we continue to listen to the call of birdsong. The birds in my garden this warm summer day are singing so beautifully, hopping here and there in amongst the flowers. The occasional bee as well … May we never lose the wonder of children beautifully portrayed not only in the photograph but in your words as well … thank you. With love, Susan

    1. What a beautiful reply to my “Listening to the Birds” poem! Thank you so much Susan. I love how you describe your garden in early summer. Hmm, I have often wondered if you write poetry yourself because of your lovely, poetic comments and depth and richness of your writing in general

      The 132 year old photograph taken by John Dumont back in 1885 had a huge impact on me when I discovered it online a couple of weeks ago … it has sparked this poem for sure! Love and light, Deborah.

  7. Deborah, your final reference to poets as flying shamans is spot on. This is breath-taking work!! Very beautiful. Your autumn song travels to me on the wind. All the best, Anna.

    1. Oh thank you so much Anna for your lovely reply! “Flying shamans” indeed, for that’s what many a poet becomes I feel … when immersed in the work. I hope this beautiful autumnal day finds you well. Blessings always, Deborah.

      1. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. ~ George Eliot

  8. Wow!! Truly the flight of the soul! Beautifully penned Deborah. My bedroom window is open and the sounds of birdsong and your poem are filling my Sunday morning with beauty and grace. I could stare at the photo you’ve used as a header all day, it’s amazing! Love to you both. HF

    1. Thank you so much Henry for your wonderful gift of words! It’s too cold here to open the windows fully but I’ve left one slightly ajar as my room fills up with beautiful birdspirit. I only discovered the old photo a couple of weeks ago online when looking for something else … it stopped me in my tracks (I even made it my one and only twitter moment!) and inspired me to write this poem in praise and honour of birdsong, nature, John Dumont’s incredible photograph and own childhood memories of “listening to the birds.” Blessings always, Deborah.

  9. Oh, oh, oh. So beautiful, Deborah. I’m still listening. The wintering birds are growing quiet here except for the fierce caw of a crow or an occasional hawk. Songbirds flew south by now, but I still hear the night sounds of crickets and tree frogs. When I begin feeding the wintering birds, I’ll hear chickadees again.

    These simple sounds that lift my soul and give me hope. Somehow, in their simplicity, they by-pass my damaged ears to give me a joy I don’t experience with human sound and voices. I love how you remind me that Nature’s songs lift me up and give me wings. Yes. My last Monarch flew south this morning and I’m going for a walk now. I’ll listen for every transcendent bird.

    1. Thank you so much Elaine for your beautiful comment! It’s so wonderful to read of your deep love for Mother Nature … all of her, including her petite crickets, often overlooked when the woods and hedgerows are filled with songbirds.

      A couple of weeks ago when I came across this vintage (132 years old to be exact!) photograph online I almost fell off my chair … such was my startled response to this exquisite and moving image. Childhood memories emerged and a poem stirred in my pen …

      What a treat it’s been to follow your exquisite Monarch stories this summer and autumn and to see your beautiful images too! Wendell Berry’s, “Peace of Wild Things” poem has been inspiring me for months now. Love and light, Deborah.

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