IT’S ABOUT THIS time each year that I am heartened to hear a different kind of bird call in the trees outside my home office window.
Most of the year I listen to the arrogant, even prideful calls of the mockingbirds, but every year, sometime in February, I begin to hear the high-pitched trilling and tweeting of the cedar waxwings who have come from who-knows-where to feast on the berries in the trees outside my window.
Don’t get me wrong. I love mockingbirds and their calls. They are so distinct. I remember the times I used to walk around in Washington – where I found very little avian variety – and every once in a while being pleasantly surprised by a different bird call, and I would know in an instant that if I looked hard enough, I would find a beautiful mockingbird in a nearby tree.
(I just glanced outside the window to find a mockingbird on a nearby branch, daring any other bird to challenge his gods-given right to the tree.)
I DO LOVE mockingbirds, but I also love variety, and that is why I am so ready for the first tweeet-tzzzeeet of the cedar waxwings.
They’ll only be here for a few days, until they strip the tree of its shiny red fruit. They chatter among themselves, no doubt commenting on the quality of this year’s vintage. And then, just as suddenly, they are gone. Where they go, I don’t know, but I presume it’s up north – al norte – in search of more beautiful berries.
Up North. That’s what we used to say when we were kids, to describe what we did each summer.
We’re going Up North, we’d say.
We’ve been Up North.
AND THAT WAS all we really needed to say. In a town that was some 90 percent Mexican – and 90 percent of those Mexicans went to Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and other northern states in search of work – everybody understood what we meant.
Everybody understood that, like the birds, we had to go Up North. The shiny fruit beckoned.