How young Song Sparrow learns to sing

Song Sparrow, Fern Ridge Reservoir, Dan Villani, 2008

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May 2, 2020. Approx. read time: 2:50 min., plus reflection questions

The faintest hint of deep pale blue brushes the eastern horizon along the spine of the Coburg Hills. 

The world outside my open windows is quiet, save for the occasional passing car, and the distant low hum of electrical systems in buildings nearby.

And now, out of the silence of new day bursts forth the clear solitary call of Mother Song Sparrow. 

She sings her signature three piping chirps, a lower note, then launches into a trill that defies notation.

I drift in the wake of silence that ensues.

Now I hear … two tentative piping chirps. And silence.

Now … three piping chirps. And more silence.

My heart skips a beat. Instinctively I know what I am hearing. Nestling Song Sparrow is learning to sing!

Mother does not repeat the song, but attends as Nestling puts forth another brave attempt. 

And another. This one a little more complete. 

And now I hear the courageous run toward the trill.

A block away, I hear another Song Sparrow—maybe Father, maybe Auntie—sing the full lyric line. Coaching from a distance, it seems. The melody faintly heard, as though evoking the memory of Song within young Sparrow.

Nestling tries again. The complex trill begins to take shape, exploratory attempts at a song much larger than the tiny body that contains it.

“The trill is in there,” I whisper encouragingly. “It is in you. It is waiting to come out!”

Again the distant song comes, coaxing forth the joyous song that is ready to burst into the dawn sky.

And now, a breath or two later, the full complex line of native song spills forth from Nestling Song Sparrow. Tentative. But there nonetheless.

This is not about learning a song, I think, but about having what is native within called forth by the elders, by the coaches who surround you.

“This song is within you,” I imagine them saying. “This is how it sounds. Find this sound within you. Find it, and sing it forth.”

Well, I think, doesn’t this just apply to what I experience these days! And perhaps what you experience, too. 

I am this Nestling, having to learn new ways of being useful. Having to learn new technologies, new software applications, as I feverishly pivot my work from live events to other forms of reaching out. 

I, too, have my elders, my coaches. One expresses complete confidence that I can master these new systems, and new processes. Another, from a distance, shows me how it’s done.

The point of the coaching? It’s to help me to sing forth, in new forms, the worthy song, native within me, which I have been given to share now at the dawn of a future we cannot yet imagine.

What new native song, hidden deep within you, are you preparing to sing?

Reflection questions

  1. What new song—what new way of being in the world—is being coached forth from me in these times? what new skills? what new disciplines are waiting to come forth?
  1. Who are my encouragers, calling me forth? Who are my coaches, showing me how it’s done?
  1. How might I willingly work with them? How might I express to them my gratitude?

I’d love to hear from you!

Photo credit: Dan Villani, 2008

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