May 22nd, 2013 | Uncategorized

Hol and I went out for a walk after dinner. I stated that I was determined to hear a thrush. Their haunting, piercing song is a crucial rite of spring for me. I have been away from home for a while, so missed their return. I heard one at a distance the other evening, but tonight we not only heard a hermit thrush in ear-thrilling proximity, we could see it! In this video, if you go to full-screen mode, you can see the bird move from one branch to another near the middle of the frame. Thrushes are very private, secretive birds. (Not unlike my recently departed mother.) I’ve seen one before very briefly. But mostly they are invisible in the dusky forest.

Every year I drag out this bit of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem Spring…but every year it is true.

…Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing…

And here is the almost-full May moon rising after we got home from our bird walk.

may moon

Here is a video about the moon, thrushes, and veeries, that I made 6 years ago. The meadow where I filmed the moon is now fully grown up with pine trees. The passage of time is nearly unbearable.

18 Responses to “thrush”

  1. Vicki Fraser says:

    Dear Alison,

    Such a beautiful call. I am so sorry to hear of your Mother’s passing. Love to you and Holly.

  2. They have such striking song.

  3. Lurkalot says:

    “The passage of time is nearly unbearable.” With that phrase, you’ve described the particular pain that comes now when I look back on years past.

    Thank you for the videos and the still shot of the moon, Alison.

    Dusk and the sound of the song of the thrush are as melancholy and beautiful as the pain you describe with your poetic line.

    I hope you, your brothers, Holly, and your mother’s partner are well.

    Take care.

  4. Erin Medeiros, RN says:

    Thank you, that was lovely…
    How lucky you were to have caught that moment,
    and how lucky I was to have listened to it… 6 years later. I wonder where it was filmed.

    Best wishes for happiness…

  5. Erin Medeiros, RN says:

    I just clicked one more web page and read that your gorgeous, amazing mother passed away.
    “Best wishes for happiness?” Best wishes for health and bravery and sanity this year.
    Go walk amongst your thrushes with your sweetheart… and accept love from the world, because you’ve been putting it out there for so long.
    -nurse erin

  6. Anonymous says:

    So beautiful–the thrush’s song and the poem. (Odd, but this is the first vertical video I’ve ever seen that actually works.)

    At once a voice arose among
    The bleak twigs overhead
    In a full-hearted evensong
    Of joy illimited;
    An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
    In blast-beruffled plume,
    Had chosen thus to fling his soul
    Upon the growing gloom.

  7. Meghan Thompson says:

    oh thank goodness. when I saw the heading, I was afraid you had an infection, on top of everything else you have been going through! 🙂

    I’ve never seen a thrush, or been sure just what their song is like. thank you! I’ll have my ears pricked all spring now … and my next re-reading of the Hobbit well be aurally enhanced 🙂 “when the thrush knocks, the least light of the sun on Durin’s Day will shine upon the keyhole”

  8. LondonBoy says:

    Dear Alison,

    I think you may have just uttered the sentence that summarises not just your later work, but one profound aspect of the whole human condition. When I first read “Fun Home” I was struck over and over by the juxtaposition of thoughts and actions from different times, and this is a theme that appears again in “Are You My Mother?”. I think you once said that it is by stepping back and examining reality that we are most present in it. It seems to me that this stepping back is part of what it is to be truly human: animals live in and react to reality, but humans can also watch themselves. I think this is closely linked to our sense of time: perhaps animals have memories, but they do not seem to have the sense of themselves located in the long stream of time, and time is the great distancer. Time forces us to step back from the events of one day and with its passage examine them at ever greater distance. This is what you do and what you communicate. This examination at ever increasing perspectives – and the examination of those earlier perspectives themselves – is a bitter-sweet business. We look at the past, and sometimes it is full of sunshine, while other times we see the shades. Invariably, though, there is a sense of loss: when you examine the past, you do indeed see it more clearly as extra perspectives are added, but this makes its departure down the eternal stream all the sadder. You are right, I think, not just for yourself, but for all people: the passage of time is nearly unbearable.



  9. Cathy says:

    Ah, we share the same rite of spring! I am happy to hear any thrush sing, though I love no song more than that of the Wood Thrush, the “official” bird of Washington, D.C. It compels me to stop moving, listen, and contemplate. Like a call to prayer.

  10. little gator says:

    For those who don’t alreayd know, American robins are thrushes.

  11. Peeka says:

    Beautiful east coast forest. Miss it this time of year. Love to you and Holly.

  12. Cathy says:

    Re: #10, bluebirds are thrushes, too.

  13. Glenn says:

    Thanks for that video! The Wood Thrush is my favorite, but Hermit Thrushes are great too. And the songs are kind of similar, so I’m still learning how to tell one from the other.

  14. Jan says:

    Hi, Alison,
    I was sorry to read of your Mom’s death, but very glad to have read your book, which lets me appreciate so much about her. I had a difficult relationship with my mom and your exploration was affirming.
    Listening to your recording, I think it may be a Hermit Thrush. Take a listen to both Wood and Hermit at
    I lost one eye a few years ago and now mostly do my birding by ear. Either way, I have a track on my iPod attributed to “the Goddess” — recording of a Wood Thrush here in western Mass.

  15. Pam I says:

    Oh, to be in England,
    Now that April’s there,
    That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
    Lest you should think he never could recapture
    The first fine careless rapture!
    And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
    All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
    The buttercups, the little children’s dower,
    – Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!
    Robert Browning.

    Our thrushes are different – like speckled blackbirds. I haven’t seen one for years in this city. My spring sign is the swifts. My heart soars when the first ones appear screeching across the sky. This year they arrived back from South Africa on May 4th.

    Alison I was so sorry to hear about your mother. This week it will be eight years since my mum died, and a day doesn’t pass when I don’t miss her. You don’t ‘get over it’, but you do get used to it. Hugs, Pam.

  16. Hi Alison,

    That is indeed a Hermit Thrush – an elusive bird, as the name suggests. The first time I heard one was when I was a Park Ranger in Glacier Bay, Alaska, and the Ranger who was teaching me bird calls stopped in her tracks and said, “Hear that? That’s the ‘King Singer.'” It was her local name for the Hermit Thrush, rarely seen and often heard this time of year.

    So glad that this lovely bird is accompanying you on your walk through grief. Hang in there,


  17. Kate L says:

    Those of us of a certain age remember when THRUSH was the arch-enemy of U.N.C.L.E. in the 1960’s TV show of the same name (David McCallum, now on NCRS, was one of the U.N.C.L.E. agents, and quite the heart-throb). Btw, speaking of the British, the English woman who interviewed at Moo U will become our geology department chair this September. Well, knock me for six and pitch me a googly, as we say on the High Plains! 🙂