Budd Davisson, Plane and Pilot, March, 2000


Early Birds

It seems as if entirely too much of my life as been spent watching my dogs hunched over doing their thing in the grass. These days, for instance, my days start around 0430, standing in our backyard waiting for Nizhoni to earn her "good girl" treats. Her needs taken care of, it's into the office.

So, there I am, freezing my keester off. It's still dark and the new day hasn't even smudged the eastern horizon. To most of the world, it's still night. To most except The Bird.

At that time of the morning, I comprise the tiny audience for the first bird that decides to sing. And there's always just one. The same one. And he's ahead of the rest by as much as a half an hour. Most of them wait until the sun, still far, far over the horizon, has at least started to brighten the sky. Not this guy. He's out there in the dead of dark, starting his day.

The really weird thing is that this particular bird doesn't start at the same time every day. It's always about an hour before the sun makes a dent on the dark, so, during the summer, he's out there chirping away really early, but he sleeps in during the winter.

Actually, saying he's chirping away is an overstatement because he's not. What he does first is a kind of loud, convulsive chirp as if his dog just bounded into the bedroom and landed on his chest. I know that sound. Then a few minutes later, there are some low, sort of guttural chirps, as if he's grumbling. Oh, man, another day. Do I have to go out there and sound cheerful? I'm just not up for that today. Ah, come on, can't I just get another ten minutes of sleep?

Then there are some consecutive chirps and you can hear him coming on-line as the official early bird of the neighborhood. Don't ask me what kind of bird he is. He could be a mutant chicken with insomnia, for all I know, because it's dark and I can't see him.

It's really going to be embarrassing if someone reads this and writes into tell me it's actually a lizard. I hope not because saying "the early lizard gets the worm" doesn't roll off the tongue.

Anyway, so I help orchestrate my dog's bowels, listen to the morning concert begin and settle down in front of the computer to do whatever it is I'm going to do that day, which often is as much a surprise to me as it is the next guy.

One never ending task that faces folks who don't have a regular type career and/or job is that we are continually asking ourselves, "Okay, what will I be today?" The answer is not necessarily foreordained. For instance, does a clown stick to exactly the same make-up performance after performance? What if he wants to be a funny lady one day or a bum the next? Does the clown union have rules about that type of thing?

That's one of the nice things about sitting there at 0500 in the morning: most rules don't go into effect until about 0830. Rules are made by rule makers and rule makers punch a clock which means they don't think in terms of what's going to effect us early risers. What happens in the 0500-world doesn't effect them because they can't imagine that world existing. So, at 0500 there are no rules. It's sort of a free form part of the day in which I can sit there and say, "okay, today, I'm going to be just a flight instructor," or maybe I'll say, "today I'm going to make giant strides on getting my website up." I keep this kind of decision making up until, by the time the rule makers are out of bed and enforcing rules, I've become what I'm going to be for that day and give the appearance of following some sort of rules. Then I think back to that first bird.

Sometimes he sounds different, day to day. As if he has more than one song in his vocabulary and wants to try them out. Maybe what I'm hearing is a bird (or possibly a lizard) who really doesn't care who gets the worm, but just wants the opportunity to sing what he wants to sing on an empty stage. He just wants to be what he wants to be and have his voice heard, no matter how few are listening. Who knows, maybe he's looking down at me watching Nizhoni and recognizes a kindred soul. That's the nice thing about being up so early, we have only our own minds and a few solitary souls in our audience. So, we can sing the song we want. I have no idea whether that makes any sense or not, but it certainly feels good. You ought to come out and join us some morning.