My Singing Has Improved

I moved from Hamilton to Auckland four years ago on November 15th.

Cabbage Trees In The Sunrise

Cabbage Trees In The Sunrise

Where I lived in Hamilton, a huge cabbage tree grew near the house, at the end of the deck overlooking the gully (narrow valley or gorge).

My (late) husband was not in good health. When he needed to rest in the daytime he preferred his couch by the picture window, not far from the tree.

One hot summer afternoon I saw him under the tree with an extremely long pole. Poking it as high as he could reach up into the branches and between the leaf clumps, he would give as hard a whack as he could possibly manage in that position.

"What on earth are you doing?" I asked.

"Shutting up the bugs," he replied.

"What 'bugs'? You don't mean - the cicadas?"

"Noisy critters. They're disturbing my snooze."

Can you imagine? It didn't stop them for long.

I love the loud, happy, steady summer sound of cicadas. That whirring, clicking 'song' from hundreds or thousands of them in the trees from dawn until dusk and later means those well-named 'lazy, hazy days of summer' are really here, evoking many memories of younger days and beach holidays.

In New York the cicadas are bigger (everything is bigger, you should see the huge, black, shiny bees!) and their 'song' is different, rising in a great crescendo and then diminishing, always coming and going in waves.

The gully we overlooked was full of trees both large and small and many varieties of birdsong could be heard. But sparrows favour suburban gardens. There was another huge tree, a Phoenix palm, in a garden a few doors along our street. It housed some sparrow families; about a thousand of them, I would surmise, judging by the racket issuing from the tree every evening. Oh, the jostling and the squabbling! No singing!

The year before I moved to Auckland the tree was cut down, so what were thousands of displaced sparrows to do then? They must have relocated closer to their ex-home because I was thankful (very, very thankful) that I didn't get the lot, my tree being a prime target, I would have thought.

But next spring there were several nests of sparrows in the tree, one containing a chick with a very loud voice. The yelling went on for weeks, and I christened it 'Little Loudmouth". I was glad I was going to leave before the population multiplied.

Anandashru Singing

Anandashru (far left) and Toshala (accordion) perform Sri Chinmoy's music

Here in Auckland there are plenty of trees in the gardens hereabouts and birdsong still. My elderly neighbour told me that some years ago she planted what she hoped was a bottlebrush tree, but unfortunately it has turned out to be a pohutukawa, the New Zealand Christmas tree. It is about thirty feet high already and still has a lot of growing to do. It's just the right size for a sparrow community.

For the last three weeks I have been forced to wear earplugs during my early morning singing and meditation. A sparrow with an extremely loud, non-stop chirp has taken up residence in the tree next door. It starts up about 5:40 a.m. Peace is nowhere. In the daytime a nearby motor mower doesn't drown it out. Soulful meditation music certainly does not; neither does the wonderful sound of Bhajans. Whatever you play, the sparrow's intrusive din can be heard above it. The clamour ceases briefly about every ten minutes throughout the daylight hours, but I suppose it has to draw breath sometime.

November 7th. Earplugs unnecessary. The sparrow was not noticeable this morning. I didn't really notice it yesterday either, which raises some interesting speculation about Guy Fawkes Night. Could it have been asphyxiated in the thick, smoky haze blanketing Auckland that evening? Or did loud bangers scare it out of town? I am not unreasonable. Sparrow noises can still be heard - but not that one.

Earplugs really internalise your voice when singing. It's a whole new dimension. Such clarity and focus!

My singing has improved...

When outer difficulties Stand in front of you, Just tell yourself, "If I can meditate In spite of this opposition, I will become A better and stronger God-seeker And God-lover." - Sri Chinmoy.