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February 8, 2023

On my mind, June 10: The song of life

By Tarmo Hannula

For the past several weeks the mockingbirds have returned to our yard. This is the normal pattern, around May and June. Let’s face it — they’re noisy and a nuisance. It used to really bother me, but for reasons unknown, I’ve come to enjoy their morning symphony and relish their huge array of nutty tunes. To me, it’s the song of life.

And they’re blended in with the modest tones of the towhees and the melancholy tunes of the golden-crowned sparrows. Throw into the morning mix a few squawks from an abrasive bunch of crows that always raid our yard and sweep through the various trees and bushes before flapping off to other sites.

It’s a great start to any day to me. And it got better today, because a light rain was falling and I’ve come to enjoy the splattering of the rain outside our back window, blended in with the chorus of all those birds.

We also have a few oak titmouse birds that pick through our yard. They make an unusual “pi pi pi peeew” sound. And, of course, there are the scrub jays with their raspy screams.

Now, I’ve come to rely on these little rascals to wake me each morning, except for Mondays, when the trash and recycling guy barrels through. His noisy truck and clanking boom that grabs the various bins at our curb make quite a stir. But there is something I like about this as well. I read a line in a poem once, “The sound of the milk bottles arriving on my porch,” obviously a reference from the days when home milk delivery was commonplace. The milk or cream would arrive in bottles in a wire rack, like a six-pack, and the milkman would pick up your spent bottles for recycling. That line is like a complete painting in my skull, a neighborhood setting, with the milkman starting the day for so many folks in the dark and in the cold.

There is a line in a Brazilian poem that goes something like this: “Throw yourself like seed and into your own field, and one day you will be able to harvest yourself.” I don’t know where I’m going with this but I know I want to sketch something out about the beauty of some of the simple things that I’ve come to appreciate.

This week I covered several graduations. I’ve covered hundreds of them now with this job and I have to be careful to not fall into a dull, repetitive groove. I’ve come to admire these kids more and more as they move on into a bigger chapter in life. From the students at New School to Aptos and Watsonville High, I feel extremely lucky to be able to showcase at least a handful of these graduates in the R-P in my photos and stories. I’ve come to love the cheer of the families and friends in the audience as the grads file onto the field. The girls, with their hair all done up with fancy makeup; the boys looking sharp, many wearing neckties or bowties.

I know a lot of these kids in the Pajaro Valley have had a hard go at it, with many of their parents working out in the fields as hard as oxen to pull in enough for rent, food and to keep the family machine running. I know some of these kids have been up against the wall and have been in the back of patrol cars and gone through gang stuff and drugs. So it means the world to me to see these proud graduates pile across the stage and grab their diplomas and move upwards and onwards.

I asked one graduate, standing there in his cap and gown — kind of a dumb and obvious question, I know — how his family felt about his graduation and he froze and closed his eyes and began to cry. That said it all. Like those birds and the early morning rain, that’s the song of life.

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Tarmo Hannula can be reached at 761-7330 or [email protected]

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