Of Meadowlarks, Dawn to Dawn, by Caroline Williford


After my first week-long stay at Thacker Pass
I leave at dawn.

At 5:30, purring up my car
and slowly steering out of camp,
I am greeted by the tall eared hare.

The one that hops out of the rabbit bush
every time I enter the Thacker Pass road.
Whether I am coming, or going.
As if to say, Are you?
Coming or going?
Why not just stay?

He hops
to the left, to the right
off the road, on the road.
Toying with me.
I slow my roll,
observe, follow his pace.
Follow his lead.

Why not just stay indeed, mad hare?

After our obligatory dance
and his escape act into the sage,
I keep the pace.
So slow I am dustless.

The sun just rising,
it arrests me.

It owns me.

Stop, it says.

My senses are alight.
Eyes entranced as the sun peeks
over the northeast corner of the pass.
A soft brushing of pink hues
criss cross above the horizon
as if the day is blushing
itself into existence.

I stop.
Park my car and get out.
I walk east,
entering the sagebrush sea.
The pass unfurls below me
as far as the eye can see.
A thick forest of ancient twisted wood
bearing sharp and sweetly scented leaves,
leaves that curl in and among one another,
a perfect nested dance
their tips twisting into the air,
like an offering.

I look.
I listen.
This place.
The dire sweetness.

And the song of it.

Oh, the meadowlarks!

Their melodies rise up with the morning light
inhabiting each stroke that newly strikes
along the sage tops.
Calling in the colors of the day
like a lover loving
every inch of her beloved.
Every detail, every hue called in and sung
with joyous fervor.

And the birds’ songs turning
to one another,
the cacophony of call and response,
I am here, and I am here
and I am here!
Echoes all around me.
Meadowlarks announcing their place in the world.
Their place in this morning.
Their love of this morning.
And my love of this morning
is infinite.

I am caught
knee deep in this ancient sage steppe
surrounded and captivated
by song
and by light.
Held fast to the morning as if
it is the last
and the only.
There is nowhere I’d rather be.
This is the song of existence.
This is the song of life.
If nothing else ever, this morning I have lived.

But deep down beneath
my brimming, glowing heart
a question swirls up from the dark.
It rises, sinuous and rattling
growing louder and shattering
the meadowlark’s sweet song.
Baring fangs
sharp and unforgiving
as it asks,
could this place be destroyed?
Human, I am asking you.

The trance of the morning broken
but not forgotten.
The enchantment clinging,
the meadowlarks’ song singing
me to stay.

Come back soon.

Driving away that morning
was like tearing myself from a mother.


On my first morning back
at Thacker Pass
at dawn,
sound breaks before light.

The meadowlarks
are singing from the sage.
Their trilling notes
take flight on the wind
and wind their way into my car
where I am curled up, sleepless.

They knock upon my chest
rhythmic as bird beaks on seeds.
They break me open in tone,
amplify and shift my morning heart beat.
Ricocheting off my bones,
plying at my veins.

My blood yields.
My heart breaks.
Never have I heard such sweetness
as the meadowlark’s morning song.

I turn, curl to the other side
and a dream ascends.

The meadowlarks are teaching me their song.
The tune cycles around me like a mantra
clicking fast and true to my memory
as it repeats and repeats
finding its way
into the vessel of my body.

My hands are poised above a keyboard
eager to play this tune through my human form.
My fingers reach and press the keys
that I know should yield the song.

But there is only silence.

I keep pressing, but the keys resist.
Absolute silence,
empty of song.

The notes now growing louder
inside of me,
the treble of the trill trembling
somewhere down beneath my throat.

It rises as a humming
until their song soars
right out my mouth.

And I am singing it,
the meadowlark’s morning song.

This song was meant to be sung,
not played.
My body, the instrument.
Rising from my own lungs,
straight from my own heart.

If I am to know this place
if I am to speak for this place,
I must embody the song.

I wake, enraptured in tune.
In a bed full of meadowlarks.
Their wings tucked all around me
like a nest.

Having given me this gift of their song,
their song of dawn and beginnings
of hope and possibility.

And this rest
that I will need
for the long,
very long haul ahead.