Monday, November 24, 2008

The Oven Bird

There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal-fall is past
When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.

“The Oven Bird,” by Robert Frost

This poem always reminds me of Thanksgiving--and vice versa--because for years, I thought "Oven Bird" was Frost's dark metaphor for a turkey. But as all English teachers learn eventually, sometimes a cigar is just a good smoke; there is actually a little bird called an oven bird (I'm from the West, and it wasn't until I moved to the East that I learned about oven birds, which are small birds named for the shape of their nests). Still, wrong as I was, the poem evokes late November for me and remains one of my favorites. So it seemed a good intro for my (early) Thanksgiving post and my (late) contribution to Dave's Garden Blogger Fall Color Project.

We're in the middle--really, past the middle, moving toward the end--of that other fall we name the fall. The sky is full--of rain, of wind, of leaves, of birds. The leaves are inches thick on the ground, and yet the trees are still full (lots of work ahead). The woods around the house shimmer in the lower autumn sun, which almost seems to catch them from the underside.

The gold of the poplars sets off the deep reds of viburnum and dogwood.

I've never seen an oven bird--we may not be forested enough for them anymore. But other migratory birds keep our autumn woods in constant motion.

They rest in the pines--from 40 feet below, it's hard to tell the cones from the birds.

And their "song" is deafening. Fall is busy--the trees and flowers may appear diminished, but the chaos of autumn reminds us that nature is in constant flux, and that falls leads inexorably to its opposite. Still, spring seems a long way off.

Salix and I are spending the holiday at the beach with friends. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.


tina said...

This is an awesome post! I love that second picture with all the fall colors combined nicely. The birds are deafening. Do you know what type they are? Cedar waxwings? The poem is nice too, I learn so much poetry from all the blogs and Robert Frost seems to be an old friend now. You have a splendid Thanksgiving at the beach Cosmo!

Les, Zone 8a said...

I love when the grackles gather in mass and create their din. It is even better how they torment our house bound cats and then in a swoosh they move on.

Gail said...


Your post photos were delightful...hasn't this long fall season been a gift!

You and Salix have a great time at the beach...happy Thanksgiving.

Rose said...

I'm so glad you joined in on Dave's fall color project, Cosmo; these photos are beautiful! I've never read Frost's "The Oven Bird" before; my first reaction on seeing the title was that it was about a turkey, too:) I like the idea of "the other fall." Our trees are no longer as colorful as yours, but the birds are just as active here, and there is still much to be enjoyed---if you bundle up!

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving, too!

Roses and Lilacs said...

Cosmo, wishing you a happy Thanksgiving also. Excellent poem, Frost is my favorite. Had to chuckle when you said you thought the 'oven bird' was Frost's dark humor;) You just can't trust those poets to say what they mean. But really the fault lies in the committee who names birds. Oven bird is a silly name as is tufted titmouse and nuthatch and cowbird;)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post Cosmo! I love how colorful your garden is at this time of the year with all the trees. The sounds of the birds is welcoming too. :) Have a safe & happy Thanksgiving at the beach!

Cameron (Defining Your Home) said...

Just delightful! I didn't know about the oven bird.

You still have beautiful tree colors.

Hope you have a wonderful, happy Thanksgiving! :-)

Take care and stay safe as you travel.

lola said...

Loved all the pics. Those birds can be a bit noisy.

Bek said...

You still have some beautiful fall color! Birds can be fascinating - if it's not their coloring, then sometimes the masses they appear in.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Sarah Laurence said...

What gorgeous photos! Especially the first one - perfect to go with that poem. Frost is my favorite poet because he captures New England so well. How lovely to see your fall color when ours is spent. The birds add so much to your lovely photos of trees. Happy Thanksgiving!

Cosmo said...

Hi, everyone--I hope you had lovely holidays. We're at the beach for another day, but I'm getting in a little early morning blogging.

Tina, as Les says, I think those birds are grackles. We also get migrations of robins and maybe starlings? I couldn't find a collective noun for either grackles or robins, but a flock of rooks is called a "clamour," which would definitely fit the grackles.

Les, the birds don't bother our pets--the robins do come close to the house, but the minute we move to the door they're off in a swoop.

Cosmo said...

Gail, I've loved the late color. We're still at the beach, where most of the leaves are off the decidous trees--it will be interesting to see what's left at home when we get back.

Rose, I love that poem, even though I had it wrong for years! We're enjoying different birds here--gulls and sandpipers and pelicans and a little brown and gold songbird that we haven't id'd yet--maybe I'll get a photo today.

tina said...

They were quite big and the terms for the groups are interesting. Clamour indeed-I bet I have seen these here but did not know what they were. Have a great day-back from the beach and relaxing.

Cosmo said...

Hi, Marnie--I can't believe I had that poem wrong for so many years--I had this whole reading worked out that turned on the fact that the wild turkey would end up in someone's oven--oh, well.

Racquel, the clouds of birds are really spectacular, and the noise is incredible--Ranunculus won't go outside when the birds descend.

Cameron, I'm waiting to see what color is left when I get home--probably the oaks, still--but I've been struck here in Duck that there's very little color left (though maybe these trees don't turn?)

Cosmo said...

Lola--Thanks, I hope you had a wonderful day--we're just about through the last of the turkey, and I'm trying to figure out what else goes with cranberry sauce . . .

Bek, thanks for the warm wishes. I love birds, and the masses of them are really dramatic--but they remind me of the Alfred Hitchcock movie, too.

Sarah, Frost is my favorite poet--well, along with Sylvia Plath--but I didn't appreciate his New England-ness until I moved East. I'm trying to build a few more postings around some of his tree poems. I hope your holiday was lovely. I have to go exercise!

Viooltje said...

Extraordinary fall magic. You've got a great eye for colors. And then some! My compliments.

Cosmo said...

Viooltje--I very much appreciate compliments, but especially from you--you're such a wonderful writer and photographer. Thanks for stopping by.

Phillip Merritt said...

Your video reminds me of a certain Hitchcock movie. Great photos of the fall color!

Sue said...

Good Morning,
I just stopped by on my way to work. (I'm supposed to be getting ready.) I enjoyed reading this post and looking at your gorgeous trees and such.