I have read that "calling birds" is a corruption of "colly birds", which is another name for blackbirds, a family that includes many of my favorite birds. Or that "calling birds" refers to any songbird, which is what I am. Either way, I have a special affection for this verse. But "calling birds" also means to me, after years of living in the Adirondacks, the birds you listen to for the news of the day. Is there an owl nearby? A cat? Those very vocal blackbirds will let you know.
Now in the city, while I am drinking my morning-strong Yorkshire Gold tea, I read (if you know me, this is no surprise whatsoever). I am reasonably consistent in my morning reading, and it occured to me this morning – how timely! – that I have morning companions who chat with me through various media, "calling birds" showing me what is going on in the world, what it might mean, and who we can be, at both our shocking worst and our shining best.
The first is my prayer book and Bible. The prayer book is falling apart, not so much from use (alas) as from travel, and from being poorly-bound in the first place. And from being stuffed full of dried leaves and found feathers (including peacock down from the Cathedral birds) and little prayer cards. The Bible is a beautiful, leather-bound Oxford's annotated NRSV that I bought for myself a couple of years ago. There are a lot of different translations of scripture lying around this apartment; this is my favorite most of the time. Of course the cover, when the book arrived, was the wrong color. I had ordered classic black, and this one is burgundy red. Befits my past, I guess, but how did the booksellers know? Did they have a little chat with Santa?
Then it's on to the New York Times (Global Edition) which I read online. Often the same things are happening in the news and in the scripture readings. I don't mean events, necessarily, but rather the human response to events.
When I have time, I check out my favorite blogs. My friend Paul Overton's beautiful blog, Every Day is Awesome is one I visit regularly. There is a new post almost every day. That alone is inspiring to me, and what he has to say is honest, thoughtful, and spiced with his wacky humor. I also treasure Léna's Lit.Life and Paula's House of Toast. Both blogs are rich and beautiful.
Finally, the fourth "calling bird" lately has been William Shakespeare, with whom I am enjoying quite a torrid romance at the moment. Will visits at all hours and gets me drunk on words and passion. What stuns me about his work is the depth to which he explored the human heart, and the sheer extravagance of the talent that allowed him to write of it. There are days, especially now, as I am about to be painting bookshelves, when I think I could get by easily and merrily with no books other than his works, the Bible, and the Book of Common Prayer. No, wait. It would be good to have that great big Oxford English Dictionary, too. And The Wind in the Willows, because I love the chapter where Ratty sees Pan. And Colette's La Lanterne Bleue. And To Say Nothing of the Dog. And, oh dear, there's always an "and"!
What books would you absolutely have to have? And who are your calling birds?