As I back into the parking space at the edge of the wood and step outside my car, the melodic trills of a veery sound clear and sharp, descending the scale like a xylophone in the early morning air. Punctuated by a pause, the song repeats in flawless fashion. The number of notes I can not count, but the pattern is unmistakable. I stop to listen and find myself transported back in time to another summer day years ago when my friend and I spent an afternoon exploring a stretch of the Connecticut River.
We put in near Gillette Castle and paddled our kayaks north against the current to Chapman Pond. As we entered the expanse of quiet water, we passed a sentinel cormorant perched on a rock, its wings held aloft like a semaphore signaling our arrival. High overhead along the far ridge a pair of red tail hawks sailed on the updrafts. We slipped across the pond, and a gaggle of mute swans descended over our heads, wingbeats whistling through the still afternoon air.
We circled the lake before stopping to eat our snack of fresh blueberries and granola bars. I glimpsed a number of goldfinches in the treetops before we returned to the river. The waves lapped against the kayaks in the current as we drifted downstream past the rocky cliffs where eagles nest in the late winter.
Here we entered the quiet waters of Whalebone Creek and followed the meandering stream back through canals bordered on both sides by tall marsh grass to a beaver dam. It was there, at the edge of a wood, that I heard the clear sharp notes of a veery in the late afternoon shadows.
In her recent piece The Trouble With Twitter, University of Oregon adjunct instructor of journalism Melissa Hart laments: “I worry that microblogging cheats my students out of their trump card: a mindful attention to the subject in front of them, so that they can capture its sights and sounds, its smells and tactile qualities, to share with readers. How can Twittering stories from laptops and phones possibly replace the attentive journalist who tucks a digital recorder artfully under a notepad, pencil behind one ear, and gives full attention to the subject at hand?”
Sound bites — those 140-character tweets — don’t begin to do any story justice, unless they happen to have their origin in the warbled notes of a mystical woodland singer.