Song of the Wild


It's January, and the promised IMG_6162El Nino rainstorms have finally hit. I put on my waterproof jacket and head outside, letting my thick-soled boots squelch in the mud. The rain is a much-needed blessing for the dry earth of California, but I'm aware that a string of gray days have wrapped me in melancholy even so. Then I hear the song of the wild. Standing in a wood of coast live oaks, Bay laurels, and madrone, the air is filled––riotous with––birdsong. It's the American robin, in numbers I have never seen before in the fifteen years I've lived in this valley. Hundreds upon hundreds of feathered beings are whistling from the treetops and swooping to eat the red madrone berries.

I feel like a concert goer in an acoustically perfect auditorium. I throw back my head, open my arms, and let the sound vibrate through my body. And vibrate it does, sending energy waves from the tip of my head to the soles of my feet.

The robin's call is often described as repeated syllables that go: cheerily, cheer up, cheerup, cheerily, cheer up. You'll find no argument from me; I am already feeling remarkably more optimistic and joyful.

The National Health Service in England, reeling from the costs of anti-depressant prescriptions, did a study on the effects of walking as a way to alleviate mild depression. Lo and behold, they found that a walk outside did as much, if not more, to lift the spirits than any pill. They have doubtless founds all kinds of logical and scientific reasons to explain this.

But what about this: there are moments outdoors, even in a city, when nature's beauty and magic pierce the soul and make us glad simply to be alive.

When I returned from my walk, I wasn't just smiling. I could feel my heart singing.