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The Piano and the Wren

Tom Sturch

ThePianoandtheWren The wren is a big song packed into a tiny brown dart of a body with an inquisitive personality. Looking, it hops and tilts its head in that stop-action way. And it instinctively sings what is beautiful within their prodigious range of sound. One interrupted a rest between notes in a bar of music I was playing. I got up immediately, forgetting my music, and moved to the window hoping for a glimpse.

The experience is always astounding. He was picking up after the night visitors. Morning and afternoon my cat and I feed the squirrels peanuts in the shell. We watch them haunch in the lawn chairs, peel and eat and scan for threat. And jays are never far, swooping as they do from nowhere. Pairs of cardinals, ground feeders, flit in as well. The hawk is in the distant wetland. After sunset my wife puts out a heap for the family of possums that frequent. And by morning the remaining crumbs are just the size for titmice and wrens.

I might say more about the passerine wren, its syrinx throat, its more than thirty phrase patterns. That it mates for life. How we transcribe their vocal variations into a Jabberwocky vernacular of whee-udel, whee-udel, che-wortel, che-wortel, or the romantic come to me, come to me. But that would miss the interruption, the irruption of the bird into ordinary days as the gift of a taste of answered longing.

Today I am dusting and noticed I left the piano on. It's an electric piano. It has presets I can push to play pre-recorded music, but I never do, even though my playing is elementary and poor by comparison. I remember the wren and why the piano is on. It occurs to me I should revise the word “instinctively” I used above, in case it carries a residue of accident or gracelessness. In case it bears a lack of will. That the bird in that moment could ever be unresponsive to the realized phenomena that is the world it sings in and how the world is there because of it.

Is this too abstract? I should not make it less so. Go play your instrument. Love your poverty. Greet what breaks in to sing.