At the end of November, seeing trucks of silver, black, blue, and red sitting empty and waiting along the country lanes, I am reminded that this is the final week of deer season for the hunters in our area. It is during this week, my husband always warns me to stay out of the woods in the mornings and evenings and I usually heed this warning. Hank, my dog, is also quite aware that something goes on in the woods during this week as each day he would look to the woods, sniffing the air. But on this final day with a frosty chill in the air, he knew he could not be content just to smell...he bounded like a deer across the field, over the stream and through the woods. Despite the fact it was early morning and I was in my pink housecoat and shoes, I followed, yelling at the top of my lungs-“That’ll do Hank!!!” As I headed down to the stream, I caught a glimpse of him turning left in the direction of the road. I circled the woods in my pink housecoat, knowing full well, there were several hunters sitting in their tree stands shaking their heads at me. Stopping to listen, I could hear no sound of a bounding dog. I was strangely calm (unlike me) as I thought- I have done everything I could do for that dog and still come up short. Yes… he is my constant companion and often travels with me. We are good friends but I have yet to capture his heart. He hears a different voice from within sometimes that stops us from doing great things. I finally gave up and went home with soggy feet.
Peter Kreeft in his book, Heaven, the Heart’s Deepest Longing, writes of the voice of the little Nightingale that calls from deep within us. We must listen well to hear that still small voice as there are other voices too. Our bounding from place to place will keep us from hearing. We appear to be happy, busy, our days filled with important things to do. Who has time to listen? The little Nightingale is most unwelcome. It is why we are never truly happy with ourselves, and what others have to offer us but we pretend to be. I think the voice is lost in the expectations of our youth and as we journey on, and as our paths wander through lonely times, we begin to hear that voice again. I have heard it for many years. It is not our conscience. It is not our kinder self. It is not beauty. It is not wisdom. It is not in the drama. It is what takes us beyond those.
“I have always...had a kind of longing for death.”
“Ah, Psyche.” I said, “have I made you so little happy as that?”
“No, no, no.” she said. “ you don’t understand. Not that kind of longing. It was when I was happiest that I longed most. It was on happy days when we were up there on the hills, the three of us, with the wind and the sunshine...And because it was so beautiful, it set me longing, always longing...Everything seemed to be saying, Psyche come! But I couldn’t (not yet) come and I didn’t know where I was to come to. It almost hurt me. I felt like a bird in a cage when the other birds of its kind are flying. C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces.
I have not heard the European Nightingale but I have heard the Hermit Thrush, often called the American Nightingale. Dressed in colours of drab browns and rust, he inhabits the lonely forests of North America. He is considered the sweetest singer of the thrush family. Although most of the time he remains silent, he begins and finishes each day with a haunting melody that sounds simple to us but is complex enough that we fail to hear each note than is sung. Our ears are not able to discern its full song as he calls out. Yet the complexity of his song allows him to call his mate so that he is recognized and welcomed.
Hank finally did come home and I, like a silly old gal, once again shed a few tears of gratitude and welcome.