I awoke to a symphony of birdsong this morning. This was due to my keeping my bedroom windows open all night to let in cool air, something I don’t always do on account of some loud neighbors—the neighbor behind me who likes to sit on his patio and listen to loud music late at night on hot nights, and teenagers who play games that scare their younger cousins and make them screech with fear.

But back to the birdsong. It reminded me of the term “aubade,” the morning equivalent of a serenade. It’s pronounced “oh-BAD.” An aubade is “a piece sung or played outdoors at dawn, usually to compliment someone” ( This bird symphony was an aubade, and while it felt like a personal concert for me and my dog Luna, who listens intently to the crescendos and decrescendos, I recognized that they are just doing what they do. I read that birdsong is communication: males seek their mates, birds need to establish territory and to communicate danger.

At the same time, for us humans, they are exercising their unique voices to herald the sunrise. They are so loud and melodious that they wake us up, and if we are lucky enough, we can spend a few minutes revelling in the beautiful sound. The chirps, screeches, rattles, and tweets delight me. I experience it as morning prayer: listening to the assembled choir singing a prelude, and thanking God for the sheer beauty of it. Those birds’ first few territory claims or mating calls are to me a subtle symphony that drives my mind to the Creator and causes me praise God for the beauty and diversity of birdsong.

I have not found the serenades of my human neighbors as holy these past few years. Normally, I need to wake up very early on Sunday mornings for my job, and so it would be nice to get to sleep at a reasonable hour on Saturday nights. It would be even nicer if on warm nights I could open my windows and be all set for the birds’ aubade the next morning. Those darn neighbors! Imagine this: I am drifting off to sleep, and just as I am slipping into slumber, the kids who are playing outdoors late at night shriek in high-pitched play. I drift off again; they scream again. At 11 p.m.! Or I am just getting in bed when Guy with Poor Musical Taste starts his Greatest Hits tour—always just within the boundaries for noise ordinances. Trust me, I have looked those ordinances up. And I wouldn’t complain, really, except COME ON: he’s listening to NEIL DIAMOND. Oh, BAD.

It did occur to me last night, after a wonderful birthday full of celebrations only possible during a quarantine, that I could think of my neighbors’ nocturnal noise as their birdsong. Maybe Guy with Poor Musical Taste is staking his territory, or wooing a mate. And the kids are communicating with one another, and maybe this is the serenade of a diverse and beautiful humanity living in the same Tree of Life: the Guy, the Kids, and the Woman with Better Musical Taste. Maybe I could appreciate the diversity of my neighbors and their night song. Maybe I could be at peace about it. So I went to bed last night, grateful that children had a backyard to play in while parks are closed, and resolved–sort of, kind of, just a little bit–to be more charitable toward Guy with Poor Musical Taste.

One thought

  1. The guy with bad musical taste is a bit harder to take….a family moved into the condo behind ours with three loud, young kids. Yesterday I talked to the mom and found out that she is newly divorced, her pay has been cut, they moved to LA before she could enroll them in their new school, and she has no idea how to juggle all of it. And with the contagiousness of this virus, it’s hard for me to even figure out how I can help her. Normally, I’d take the kids to a park or something. It was good to get this and hope all else is well with you. We are doing fine here.

    Jen and Leslie

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