Having lived in the land-locked Midwest most of my life, I couldn’t help but be charmed by all the natural beauty that is California’s. We could sing a “dayenu” for the Pacific Ocean alone: its sheer grandeur, its changing moods, the incredible variety of marine life from the microscopic to the gargantua, not to mention the variety of rock formations to be found in all the coves and beaches along its 840 mile coastline.

From the very beginning of our sojourn in this great state, I felt a certain “wildness” in our surroundings. Humans, as a species, may be capable of “taming” nature, but here in California, Nature has a louder, clearer voice. There are times when she acts in a most giving way, providing various climates to make it possible to grow all kinds of fruit trees in our back yards. Sometimes she sings all kinds of melodies in the variety of songbirds or other creatures such as the mating songs of the frogs. (When I first arrived in Santa Rosa, my Shabbes walk took me over a small stream. I’ll never forget the one winter evening when I heard this amazing chorus welling up from its banks). There are times when Nature breaks into screaming through her earthquakes, winds, wildfires and floods. Yet, at the same time, one senses a greater intimacy with our natural surroundings, quite possibly precisely because of this fact.

No small wonder that by and large, native Californians put Nature on a pedestal. They understand to a unique degree just how precious a legacy this is. No one can afford to take her for granted. Here, Nature earns our love and demands our respect.

Being a dog owner entitles me, every day, to an early morning walk, and it’s amazing what you can discover in this semi-meditative time. Walking down the street, at a leisurely pace, I couldn’t help but pay attention to the beautiful sounds coming from the neighborhood trees.

One series of notes, especially captured my attention. I looked up to see where the sounds could be coming from. There on a topmost branch was perched a bird “attired” you might say, in a dress suit, performing what might well be considered a solo concert. I listened more carefully, and realized that while it might repeat its series of notes, it would sound out sets of completely different melodies. I was able to record, albeit poorly, those sounds on my cellphone. When counted, I may have found at least 8 different sets of sounds.

By now, I’m sure you have guessed that I was listening to a mockingbird which has become my favorite bird; not because of its plumage, but because its sheer vocal talent!

Here are some of the sounds I recorded

All coming from one bird!

From the Midrash on the Song of Songs:
Every creature in the Universe has its own unique song that it sings to the Creator; from the tiniest organism to the vast galaxies in the heaven of heavens. It is for humans, given their unique gifts, to listen to those songs; to weave them into a personal symphony and to join with their fellow creatures in a universal Song of Creation; a magnificent chorus expressing the love, the amazement, the joy and the adoration, deep within every person’s heart.

It is all there. We just need to recognize its presence.

With fondest wishes,

Mordecai Miller