Birds | Music | Travel

The Sound of Familiar

“I hope you’re haunted by the music of my soul
When I’m gone”
– Greg Allman, My Only True Friend

There is what feels like a thousand Black-capped Chickadees living in the holly bush next to my deck. They’re the state bird of both neighboring Massachusetts and Maine. New Hampshire, sitting between these two states, opted for the Purple Finch. Don’t tell that to this cast of characters – they don’t much care for state borders and such human concerns. The party never stops in that holly bush. But now and then a solo singer will fly up on a branch somewhere and sing that familiar “fee-bee” song and it transports me back to earlier days. That song’s been playing my entire life.

One of the first things I notice when traveling is the ambiance is different. That’s obvious to everyone when you’re seeing the Eiffel Tower or the Grand Canyon, but close your eyes and listen past the sounds of humanity.. There’s a vibration to any place, a soundtrack playing in the background. Wind, water and trees offer their voice, and of course the local bird population sings their own greatest hits like a house band in a local pub. I’m a bit of a migratory bird myself, stuck in a cage at the moment. But I’ve learned to listen in new places and long for the exhilaration of immersion in faraway places.

With fewer long drives I’m listening to fewer podcasts. I’m reading more, and I’ve grown tired of most of the interviewers I regularly listen to. Instead I favor silence more, or listen to WMVY streaming from Martha’s Vineyard. We all have our greatest hits playing on repeat, but I’ve always sought out new music. WMVY offers music you don’t hear on some corporate iHeart radio station. Respectfully, I prefer to find my own soundtrack. Someday, maybe, I’ll get back to that island. In the meantime I listen to the familiar voices and think about the ferry ride to Vineyard Haven and fried fish and beer at The Newes From America. Island sounds are different from mainland sounds, but for the life of me I’ve lost the sounds beyond the bustle of crowds and the crash of waves. I do need to get re-acquainted, picking up just where we left off like old friends seem to do years between seeing each other.

The music of a place goes beyond the songs played on the local radio station or in the local pub, it includes the buzz of outboard engines or lawn mowers or street sweepers or chain saws off in the distance, of laughter and chatter coming out of open windows, and the birds occupying the local shrubs catching up on local gossip. The place doesn’t hope you’ll remember it, it just keeps on going as it always has, so long as humanity doesn’t bulldoze it all away anyway. I suppose Greg Allman was thinking about his legacy in the lyrics of this song. We all hope we’ll be remembered in our own way. I write and let it all fall out the way it may. Mostly it’s a familiar record I might return to someday. Like fond memories, revisited.

I believe I’ve held onto this post long enough. I think it’s time to release this bird from its cage.

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