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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill

Birds on a Mountain

woods, trees, sunlight
The Woods in Spring - CCO

Sometimes, when my children were away, I would go for days without talking to a single soul. I lived in the woods on a mountaintop. I loved my rich inner life. 

In winter and early spring, after the roosters crowed and the orangey sun peered over the rooftop of the barn from the top of the ridge, I listened for the voice of dawn. Gray clouds transformed into endless rolling fields of soft pink, shifting to deep red and then into white vapor imaginings.

I sat on the back deck in my weathered wooden rocking chair and listened to the woodpeckers. They tapped. I rocked. Each bird brought with it a new sound, and each tree returned the favor.  

Sometimes my toes were chilled, but I did not care. The next day I would remember my leather moccasins, maybe. After I tipped my cup for the last drop of cold coffee, I pondered my puffs of steamy breath and tried to decide if another half a cup would be worth it, if I could only tear myself away. 

When I caught sight of the sparkling ice that lingered on every single branch, I forgot about the coffee and slipped my feet into frozen, mud-caked boots with stiff laces. The ashen snow, left over from the second or first storm, crunched when I walked. I sat on the stump that the boys used for a chopping block beneath the apple tree in the backyard. That is where I gained the chickadees’ trust. I could feel the air from their flapping wings as they rushed past me to dine on black oil seeds. 

The apple tree became the tree of temptation. I tucked orange slices in mesh nets and draped them over the branches and waited and watched. Can I fool the Baltimore Orioles into thinking that this is an orange tree? Of course, I would never know what they thought, and it mattered not. I only remember that it worked; they stopped by my apple tree and graced me with their presence every year. 


They kept good company, because with them came the rose-breasted and pine grosbeaks, and the brilliant indigo buntings – elfin bursts of blue. Like the blue jay, that shade of blue cannot be imitated on my palette. I admit I tried, thankful for Sophia’s little miracles, and grateful to accept my own limitations. 


I walked deep into the woods and collected anything worth collecting. If I decided not to take it, I put it back. I never destroyed anything living, unless it was something to eat or re-plant or if it meant that the thing next to it would thrive and I always gave thanks. 


I returned to my rocking chair and sat on the back deck in my flannel nightgown until I felt like it. Sometimes I played my cello to see how the birds and animals would respond, and then how I would respond. I learned that music does affect birds. They stop and listen.  

Once I was down by the pond watching a pair of ducks as they swam away from me. I started to sing a sweet, simple song by Brahms, and they turned and swiftly headed towards me. I continued singing. They stopped in front of me and made reckless and passionate love. I was alone, but I blushed anyway. (Excerpt: Marya Dreaming)


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