The Dawn Chorus

Find one place you can get to know really, really well. This is the most important routine you can develop. Know it by day; know it by night; know it in the rain and in the snow, in the depth of winter and in the heat of summer. Know the stars and where the four directions are there; know the birds that live there, know the trees they live in. Get to know these things as if they were your relatives, for, in time, you will come to know that they are! That is the most important thing you can do in order to excel at any skill in nature. Nature and your own heart are the best teachers, but your body, mind and spirit all have to attend the class, and do the homework. There is no replacement for this experience!–Jon Young

In these, our final days in San Francisco, I am more committed than ever to morning meditation in my sit spot.


My spot is just a few steps out the back door. The city expands before me, all the way to the Bay Bridge, the Oakland Hills. Several high posts are the favorite lookout for the neighborhood crows and the seasonal starlings, who announce raucously their return from southern climes. Right next to me are trees in bloom, two kinds of plum, and their branches gently tremble with the weight of house finches, juncos, robins. Chewing daintily on the blossoms, they savor the nectar and then spit out the petals, each tree raining down it’s own under-blanket of dismembered flowers.


I relax my eyesight, letting it soften from the one point focus of the predator to the wide angle of a participating citizen. On high alert, I can see the crow flicking its tail at the periphery of my vision on the left and also the western gull to my far right, returning to the school dumpsters for breakfast.

I do the same thing with my hearing, and suddenly, instead of feeling overwhelmed by the muffled din of the city, my listening becomes 360. Rather than jump from noise to noise, my ears take in sound from every direction, the voice of the ecosystem like a giant inverted bowl placed over my head.

A male house finch belts out his song, singing of nectar, companions and morning. He proclaims it to be good, and my heart does the same.

Listen closely to hear not only a house finch, but also a mourning dove, hummingbird and crow.


For the last two weeks I have depended on this morning ritual to remind me of presence, now-ness, and soul purpose. After 10 minutes I step out from under the bowl, feeling pleased with the robin song that has awakened my blood. Going back into my day of boxes and cleaning and rewinding and recovering, appreciation for the last 18 years hums its own open hearted song. Goodbye San Francisco, hasn’t it been amazing?

old crow004

Mid-afternoon on Saturday, we arrived at our new home, gingerly navigating the rental truck around a pile of gravel, the horse shower, an old kitty with no tail. Jumping down from the cab, I heard a hawk call from a gnarled oak in a neighboring pasture. Another answered, the sound quickly coming closer, bursting into view right above my head. It cried out once, twice, three times, circling over and over the roof of our little barn house.

Welcome home.


The truck unloaded, and hungry enough to eat my own fist, we drove into Sebastopol for dinner. Prairie Home Companion played on the car radio as twilight darkened. We passed a Foster’s Freeze on the right, tiny cottages on the left and suddenly it dawned on me…I’m finally moving back to a small town. When I left Shasta County 18 years ago, I comforted myself with the thought that it would only be for a short while. Two years minimum, five years max.

Like an animal kept in a cage for too long, once the door was finally opened I lost the ability to recognize my freedom. I have been keeping my head down, nose on the task before me. Pack this, dismantle that, post everything to craigslist. Saturday evening I tentatively nosed my way past the wire gate of my own captivity and was struck with the return of a familiar, but long misplaced, feeling.

Happiness. Uncultivated and unbeckoned. Spontaneously arriving, born of its own impulse. Just…happy.


Now we count down our final mornings. 5 more days. 4 more days. The house is growing empty, sound bouncing off the void, memories echoing. Only slightly bittersweet, mostly what I feel is gratitude. I take down the history of myself from this place and wind it around my arm like old christmas lights after a good holiday. It was a good time. And I’m ready for what comes next.

The robins break the dawn on each last day, weaving their map for the moments ahead. I awaken from sleep in our now bare room, realizing I heard their calls in my dreams.

My soul takes flight.


P.S. Someone tried to hack into my wordpress account and change my password. Kudos to whoever you are, for wanting to be a shit disturber, but really…don’t mess with my shit. Go blow up a dam or plot to take down the corporations, but leave my little personal corner of the internet alone. Thanks.

P.P.S. Check out the post below…this blog is moving to a new address…I hope you’ll come along!


5 thoughts on “The Dawn Chorus

  1. Oh Mary, my soul sings in unison with yours. Truly. I knew it would overflow you at some point, this relief, this deep happiness, this wonderful homecoming feeling. And yet I started to cry when you mentioned it… as if it was being transmitted to me at the same time.

    Welcome home indeed :o)

  2. i want to cry…
    i can feel your vibrating gratitude….
    your home that kept you warm until it was truly your time to leave.
    you always knew it,
    your little country life was always awaiting your triumphant and fated return.
    does everything not feel as it should?

    i feel like i’m reading some glorious epic.
    the birds are singing their songs here and it is liquid sunshine in my stoney heart.

    beautiful, beautiful.
    i’m so happy to be reading this post. as a dedicated reader this was a long and happy day coming!!!!!!!!!!!

    can’t wait to see how you sow up your new soil!

  3. Finally, finally, finally. This has been a long and emotional journey fraught with hopes and disappointments and finally, it is coming to a new beginning! Finally you are finding your new home. Im so joyous for you friend, so very heart fluttery indeed. I’m smiling for you and feel like I can smell the cardboard boxes and dirt and leaves and early morning dew and late evening crispness at your new house. Welcome! xoxo

  4. the timing of your move is pretty spectacular. i smile thinking of all the new growth both inside and out that is coming. i know i said before it’s the outside that matters, but then i thought later, you’re gonna make that inside one special place too. and it will matter a lot how you do that. it’s the matter at the core. love thinking of all this change and renewal. you flew the nest!!!!! you made it happen!!! how inspiring. minute long smile i have as i write you this little note. thank you for sharing so openly. so bravely.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s