Sunny, warm, and quiet except for the distant wail of a locomotive, a phoebe calling at the woods’ edge, a cricket, the rustling of leaves.
Sunny and cold. A phoebe calling up by the barn, as if this were some morning in March—and he was just arriving, not preparing to leave.
When the mid-morning rain eases up, the phoebe comes out to hawk for gnats, and I hear the first wood thrush singing—those pure, sad notes.
Low clouds fly east to west. From above the road, the loud snap of a phoebe’s beak on the spot where some fly had been a moment before.
A phoebe perched high in a red maple shakes rain from its feathers, its tail twitching up and down, up and down among the dark red blooms.
The phoebe sings lustily for the first time in days, hawking flies on the sunny side of the barn. Bits of cattail down rise from the marsh.
The first phoebe is finally back, chanting his name in the barnyard. Marcescent leaves of a scarlet oak glow orange, back-lit by the sun.
When I come out, a committee of flies is convening on my chair, despite the chill. Ten minutes pass without a single bird call, then phoebe.
Sitting outside with my laptop, blind to the world. A phoebe flies past two feet from my nose, followed a minute later by a hummingbird.
A phoebe dives at a cabbage white butterfly and comes up short. It zigzags after it, hovers, snaps again: only a tiny piece of white wing.
A warm morning at last. Waxwings whistle at the tops of the tall locusts, but from the phoebe nest, only silence: the young have fledged.
The springhouse phoebe has already found a mate. They take turns fluttering up under the eaves to refurbish the 30-year-old nest.
A newly-returned phoebe sings from each familiar perch. Up at the other house, the sound of breaking glass. The sky turns white.
Gone for just two days, I come home to find half the lilac crushed by a fallen limb from the dead elm. A phoebe already uses it as a perch.
A tiger swallowtail butterfly glows in the strong sun like stained glass. In the shade, a freshly bathed phoebe straightens its feathers.
Phoebe in the barnyard, pewee in the woods. What is it about cleared land that turns a lilting refrain into a burden, a shrill work song?