A gentle lambent pale grey light filters through my uncovered right eye as I awaken to an awareness of this other reality. Stirring in the cocoon of my duvet I lie, silent, listen to Rumpole breathing, waiting for the robins’ morning announcements, for the chicka-dee-dee-dee counter melodies. Minutes pass, this morning chorus is very weak this dawn, not the familiar vigorous callings and singings back and forth among these suburban companions. I am instinctively worried, crawl out of bed and make for the back door. Maybe the membranes of the house prevent these familiar locutions from being heard from inside the house in their full vigour. Willing the sounds to be their remembered strength, I throw open the back door stand quiet, listen and note little appreciable difference in what can be heard – it seems a weak, half-hearted chorus!
At dawn, The General, our Maine Coon cat, generally lies in the studio window listening to the birds, and eagerly waits for their first movements in and about the apple tree, their foraging in the grass at the foot of it. This morning, he is absent from his habitual perch.
Entering the kitchen, I make up a pot of coffee. As the machine percolates, giving out its gurglings, its noises blank out any other sound. The General pads his way through, his nails clicking on the linoleum. He pauses to rub against my shins, makes a comment and proceeds on his way to his cattish occupations. Coffee poured, I sit musing on my observations about this morning.
When we were courting in the mid-70s, Rumpole was working as an ecologist for the Provincial Government. One day, he presented me with Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and requested that I read it, think about the ramifications of its contents. We had many discussions about the cautions Carson raised.
During our life together, without undue discussion, almost by silent assent, we never used pesticides on the bits of land on which we found our perch. When one summer, up north, carpenter ants decided that our log house made an ideal haven for nests, we researched ways to get rid of them and found that pouring ground cinnamon on their paths to and from the house, along the perimeter of the foundations and into their entry points in the logs worked quite well to offend them into leaving our house.
Here in suburbia, there is a movement afoot to prevail on the municipality to ban the use of pesticides. I know people who travel to the States to purchase pesticides banned here in Canada, in order to maintain their emerald, manicured plots of lawn. Experts of varying opinion weigh in, pro and con, about pesticide use. Much argument prevails, decisions are deferred. The local lawns retain their manufactured sameness. The decorator gardens are ubiquitous.
But the dawn chorus, that one must now strain to hear, diminishing, lessening year by year, if it finally disappears to leave a soundscape of mostly mechanical music, should be treasured above any cosmetically perfect ersatz natural surrounding we fabricate around ourselves.