Winter in Colorado is far too long-lived. Because we can get snow from September through May, as the actual winter season winds down I begin scouring the landscape for any signs that longer, sunnier, warmer days (sans snow) are on the horizon. There is one sign in particular that I relish beyond measure…the return of the western meadowlark to the prairie fields that surround our home. I’m a bit obsessive about it, actually.
Beginning March 1st, I find a few minutes each day to stand out in the still brisk winter air to listen for the meadowlark. Sometimes it surprises me by being accessible the very first day I listen for it. Other years I haven’t heard it until March 21st or so. But, the song of that bird makes everything right in my world after a too long, too cold winter. Their migratory return to the fields behind our home heralds the potential greatness of the upcoming summer: long bike rides with friends, days at the pool, concerts at Red Rocks, hiking with my boys, camping in the high country, impromptu block parties where we sit on the sidewalk with neighbors…cold beers in hand. Yep. The song of one small bird evokes all those beautiful thoughts in my winter-weary head.
This morning I was sitting in bed with my laptop, enjoying the latte provided by my weekend coffee bitch Steve, and through my bedroom window I heard it. I paused. I think I heard it. I tossed my laptop on the bed, threw off the covers, and pulled open the window for verification. I scanned the landscape behind our home looking for its tell-tale figure resting on the barbed wire fencing or a tall, long-dead prairie weed. I heard the songs of finches, but no meadowlark. Damn. It wasn’t the meadowlark. Just as I started to close the window, though, the song came again. It was the meadowlark. It was back.
My heart smiled. And, just as I do every year, I leaped to my feet and began yelling to my family at the top of my lungs.
“It’s back! It’s back! The meadowlark is back!!”
Long used to my obsessive ranting about this tan and yellow bird, my family ignored me. Their lack of enthusiasm, however, didn’t dampen my joy. I pulled the blinds up, sat on the floor at the window, and listened for his song again, my heart a bit lighter, my day made, summer finally on the horizon. People often say it’s the little things that make life worth it, and they’re right. The big things are wonderful, but if we take the time to search out and appreciate the little things every day there’s no need to sit around and wait for the big ones. Our souls are filled already.