Sitting here on my third-floor balcony I watch a mockingbird hop on the fourth floor roof. Two snowy egrets pass above with slow, regal flaps. Their bodies are whiter than clouds against the brilliant blue. The mockingbird peppers the air with twitters and burrs. A starling streaks just above the roofs of my apartment complex, flapping hard like it is heavily laden. Mockingbird winds down its rattattat to silence.
Filtering and floating on the breeze, the bubbling warble of the house finch slides in from the south. I listen as the song develops, cascading up and down in rapid chirps with no discernible pattern. A barn swallow appears, racing around in wide loops over the parking lot. Around and around it goes, counter clockwise, banking on the air with the right wing high and the left wing low. It stops midair, diving for a bug and pulling hard on its tiny pointed wings to hover, then snaps back into loop mode.
Away in the distance, a red and white jumbo jet crawls into view, flying low. It is close enough to see the jets strapped to the wings and flashed reflections on the curved body. As it passes, it leaves a tearing sound like phone books torn in two. The sound is thin, blocked by the air and the distance. The sound of the finch fades and a mockingbird begins again. Here on my balcony, it is still before ten o’clock, and yet I have already accomplished the most important part of my day: I went from seeing to looking; I went from hearing to listening; and I went from existing to feeling.