Last week when I was filling a feeder at the very back of our yard, I heard the call of a returning Red-winged Blackbird. My heart skipped a quick beat, and I had to stop and listen twice to make sure I had heard what I thought I had heard. It was gray and dreary, my fingers hurt from the nip of cold through my leather gloves, and I was mucking through the mud in lovely red boots, so for me, the call was out of place.
For me, the Red-winged Blackbird’s call means summer. As a kid, I can remember baking out in the sun while playing wiffle ball or looking for crawdads under rocks in the creek and hearing that wonderful bird sound always around us. At the time, I didn’t know it was the call of a Red-winged Blackbird. To me it was just one of the early sounds of summer, and I liked it. To this day, the red wing’s call makes me happy. It can evoke the feeling of summer heat and summer freedom…open space, blue sky, and water.
One day last summer, Rick, Matty and I headed up to the Spring Valley Wildlife Area. It was blazing hot…the kind of heat that just absorbs into your skin and makes you feel good. Walking across the boardwalk through the marsh, male Red-winged Blackbirds were scattered throughout the reeds, heads thrown back, singing into the heat. That exact moment was so beautiful it is branded in my mind. I had Matty and Rick with me, the sun was warm, and my childhood sounds of summer were all around me, melting past and present together.
Last week, when the red wing sang briefly in my back yard, anticipation of summer and the nostalgia it often brings spiked in my heart. As a coincidence, that night, while doing his homework, Matty had to define the word nostalgia and come up with its antonym. He decided nostalgia was longing for the past, and its antonym would be longing for the future. After a few moments, the word “anticipation” popped in his head. I had to chuckle…with a Red-winged Blackbird in spring at my house, you can’t have one without the other!