It’s the bird that wakes me, a loud, sudden call from the hedge right outside my window, closed tight against the icy cold of a predawn April day.
It’s dark in the room and I squint at the clock and pull the comforter back up to my nose, but no higher, because I can’t breathe stale air.
It’s 5:30 a.m. and that bird is early.
I think he knows it, too, because he falls silent after that one call. And the next morning, his voice follows immediately the blare of my 6 a.m. alarm, sharp and piercing, a warning, almost.
The hedges that line the edge of small lot are a pain to keep trimmed. They tower above the roof line and, when we first moved in, stretched branches over the sidewalk between the house and garage, choked with wild vines.
I’ve spent hours in summer sun taming them, pulling down vines and feeling the vibrations of an electric trimmer shake my outstretched arms, balancing on a ladder. I’ve toyed with cutting them down, those days, if it weren’t for the alley and the neighbors on the other side.
And they teem with life. All spring, summer and fall birds live in their branches, and a few stick around all winter, too. There are robins and chickadees and funny black birds that perch on the top most branches and flap their wings and call a dry, crackling cry. Squirrels leap from the powerlines into their protection; and a chipmunk who lives under the garage darts through the pine needles on the hedge floor to steal scraps from the compost pile.
They keep the house cool, too, especially that bedroom with the windows looking straight out into the hedge.
And though we close the windows and pull the curtains closed, the voices of those birds who live in their branches wake us on weekend mornings, a cheerful cacophony of songs and calls and avian squabbles just outside.
And one, apparently, is our backup alarm, sending up a warning when the first bit of gray lightens the eastern sky.