Northern Mockingbirds, in addition to being good mimics, are also some of the loudest and most constantly vocal of birds. They often sing through the night or when the moon is full. This is especially true of those bachelor males that are trying to attract a female. They sing year-round except sometimes for the late-summer molting season. Individual males have repertoires of 50 to 200 songs; females sing as well, but more quietly and less often than males. Mockingbirds usually sing the loudest in the twilight of the early morning when the sun is on the horizon.
I am watching a pair of mockingbirds light from limb to limb in the old apple tree. They seem to be doing a dance—each move carefully measured. Their wings flash white when they open and I hear them call to each other.
I am thinking about love.
I know that mockingbirds tend to be monogamous—that mates return for their chosen one from season to season. But Wikipedia tells me something about these vocal imposters that I did not know:
The male mockingbird is a romantic. This little bit of information makes me smile—especially because I have been reading the Song of Songs this morning.
Stone Crossings took me there, and as I imagined my friend’s beloved singing a song of love to her, I had to read the words first hand.
Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot wash it away.
If one were to give
all the wealth of his house for love,
it would be utterly scorned. (Song of Songs 8:6-7)
This past Sunday my pastor talked about grace.
God’s grace is old, she said. It came before all of creation. It is not a response to the human condition.
That he loves me this way—with the hot breath of a lover—this is a miracle of grace to me.
The mockingbirds are in flight now. They make wide, arching sweeps over the meadow—paths crossing in graceful curves. I watch their silhouettes against the white sky and marvel at the lover’s pursuit.
She gives good chase. But he does not falter. I watch as they fly over treetops and out of my sight: two shadows, blending into one.
Tonight, I will have my forehead smeared with ash as we enter the Lenten season. The ashes remind me that life on this earth passes away, that I came from dust. I will repent and remember God’s grace and mercy. But I also remember that I am a new creation…He lives in me. The beauty of the ashes lies in the rest of the story.