Midnight, Meteors, and Mockingbirds

There was supposed to be a meteor shower last night, the first of its kind. Since I’d never seen shooting stars, I made sure to go outside at 11:00 pm PT to see what I could see.

Clouds. That’s what I saw. No shooting stars. No stars of any variety, for that matter.

I went out again at midnight. The clouds had moved away by then, and I saw the usual scattering of stars. (The city lights out here are too bright to show the true beauty of the night sky.) I didn’t see any part of the meteor shower, though perhaps I gave up too soon. Instead of the spectacle of hundreds of meteors an hour the news media had tantalized us with, there were actually only about five to ten per hour. Maybe if I had known where to look, or that I would have had to be out for longer than a few minutes, I would have waited.

Still, it was a joy to be out in the midnight air since it’s something I seldom do. I stood in the middle of the driveway, and listened. There was no sound of cars, no human voices, and oddly, no dogs barking. Most of the houses were dark. It was just me, the chirping of crickets and other incessant insect noises, and . . . birds singing.

mockingbirdBirds singing? At midnight? I’d never heard such a thing. I’m used to birds singing reveille, urging the sun to rise above the horizon. I’m used to birds singing sporadically through the day, or calling as they pass overhead. I’m even used to a few warbles as the sun goes down, but when night falls, the birds fall silent. (I just though of something — the sun falls below the horizon at the end of day, so how can night fall, too? Shouldn’t night rise?)

Hearing birds at midnight was so out of my ordinary, I checked online for night birds in this part of the world. I’ve heard owls, of course, but owls tend to hoot or screech. They don’t warble, and they don’t crow. (Besides the warblers, I heard ravens. I don’t remember ever hearing ravens crow at night, but that doesn’t mean they don’t.)

Apparently, what I heard were mockingbirds. Maybe there were no ravens last night. Maybe the mockingbirds were pretending to be ravens. For all I know, the mockingbirds were the whole dang chorus — crooning, cawing, and chirping.

The noise level surprised me, making me wonder about the feasibility of taking some sort of epic walk. I’d stay in hotels when possible since I’m not much of a wilderness sort, but there would be times I would have to find a place outside to bed down for the night, and how the heck would I ever be able to sleep with all that racket? And what about all the other nocturnal creatures slinking around without making noise? Could be more than I am prepared to handle.

If I remember, I’ll go out again tonight to look for meteors. It’s possible, some astronomers say, that the shower didn’t fizzle, but was simply delayed. I’ll also listen for mockingbirds and enjoy the unaccustomed sound of birds singing at midnight.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.