I have a memory of standing on the front steps of the condo my mother died in.
It was spring, and she was still alive, so it must have been the month of March. Perhaps it was my sister's birthday (March 8), which she celebrated by spelling my sister's name in oatmeal raisin cookies: M-O-L-L-Y. The M was slightly bloated; the L's and Y were impressive and neat. Perhaps it was my birthday (March 17), which I don't remember, or don't want to. She was too ill to eat the cake, as I remember it; we ate downstairs while she laid in her bed upstairs, as though she were already missing, already gone.
The point is, some day in March, my mother and I were standing on the front steps of the condo, lingering in the sun, when we heard a bird calling from the top of a very tall pine. "Fa-Re!" he chirped. It was a clear, two-tone call: a minor third, heartrending in its optimistic delivery.
At this point my mother said something about how far the bird must have traveled; how alone he might have been all that time; how solitary and vulnerable he was, on that bald and trembling treetop, surrounded by sky.
As I listened to my mother talking, I thought maybe she was talking about her own migration into death, which would happen soon; about all the unknown lands she would cross in darkness. It's possible I laid that meaning over her words, like a tinted transparency. It's possible, too, that we never had this conversation at all; that this memory I have is nothing but the imprint of my own silent musings as I stood with my mother, listening to the cry of the bird, wishing fervently that she could join the bird in living.
This bird is quite common where I live, although I don't know its name. Each time I hear its song as I walk down the street, it is a call to arms, proof of my survival, symbol of my mother's wordless and inhuman presence, long after her migration.
This brief fragment is the beginning of a new direction for my website, in which I share bits of unfinished work connected with my upcoming projects. I have two projects in the works connected with birds, including a new album inspired by Terry Tempest Williams' book, Refuge. I hope to share text and musical ideas on my website, as a way of letting interested people see the personal foundation that these projects will sit upon.
Photograph by my mother; date and location unknown.