This morning, as in the past 15 or 38 mornings, the song of birds has awakened me at 4:00 a.m.
You might think that I am upset at Mrs. Robin for disturbing my slumber like this every morning at 4:00 a.m., especially since she has invited all of her feathered friends over for their morning reveille. I have been gently jolted awake by the sweet spring warbling of Blue Madam Jay, Uncle Cardinal, and a whole host of cousin Chickadees. I at least count my blessings that the long-standing feud between the Gullfields and McCrows has not reached its crescendo outside my window.
I am not upset because these birds are providing a valuable service. That service being that, when they wake me up at 4:00 a.m., I now know that I have one hour and forty minutes more of sleep left before my alarm goes off. It’s always important to know when you have one hour and forty minutes of sleep left. That’s my new motto and I believe that everybody out there should join with me and make whatever arrangements are suitable, be it bird song, child noise, spouse snore, or pet whine, to be woken up one hour and forty minutes before your alarms go off. No need to thank me; it is the least that I can do.
I also find it valuable to look at this situation from the perspective of the birds.
Imagine that you are a robin (indulge me for a moment). You spend your typical carefree day flying around, taking time to rest on rooftops, hydro wires, and tree branches. You might engage in an aerial dogfight with some fowl trespassers that infringe on your territory. If it per chanced to rain during the day, you might find yourself bopping along the street feasting on fat juicy worms. Maybe you spend a little time feathering your nest with some twigs or leaves. All in all, life is grand.
Then darkness begins to fall. Being a bird, and being in possession only of the brain of a bird, you start to fret and fuss about the loss of light. In fear, you retreat to your nest under the eaves, or deep in the foliage of a comforting tree. You fall asleep wondering if this is the end of your world, uncertain what the future holds.
Then, say around 4:00 a.m., you sense a coming light. The darkness slowly retreats from the east. Well, after spending a night cowering in the dark, you can hardly contain yourself. The sheer joy at witnessing the rising sun that will allow you to spend another day in the light comes bursting forth in the most cheerful song that you just have to share with all of creation; especially that nice fellow sleeping on the other side of that bedroom window. So, with the power of American Idol runner-up Diana DeGarmo belting out “Freedom,” you settle in on the rooftop and declare how great it is to be alive.
As I am lying there listening to the birds and pondering these deep thoughts at 4:00 a.m., I imagine that the apostles must have felt much the same way after Jesus was crucified. No doubt, the hours after the crucifixion were the darkest and most fearsome hours any of them had ever known. And then there was light again after all when they saw Jesus resurrected. Their joy was so great that the song of their good news has survived these 2,000 years and has been heard the world over.
So as I drift off to sleep again, the song of the birds and the knowledge that the sun will rise again to start a fresh new day comforts me. It sure beats getting mad at the birds.
Nick Burn is a freelance writer, husband, father of three, engineer, teacher, and webmaster for the Canadian Catholic Information Network. In his spare time (hah!), he enjoys camping, skiing and reading.