Bird commotion in the trees everywhere about us probably means that love literally is in the air.
This time of year I cannot see much difference between my backyard and the high school cafeteria a couple of weeks before the senior prom.
Come early spring, I can barely make it to the mailbox without some mockingbird, robin, or Cardinal strafing me as he puffs his stuff for the ladies perched nearby. The red-headed woodpeckers hammering on my wooden porch columns remind me of teens jamming to loud music.
Truth be told, birds of the chickadee, finch and warbler ilk turn my neighborhood into an ornithological singles bar with their lovesick antics every spring.
First, the early-arriving males stake claims and broadcast their territories, and as the ladies show up there is enough bowing, strutting, and gyrating to make a bashful country girl blush.
Once birds pair up, there are even stranger displays that strengthen the relationship between the newlyweds, kind of like sharing a glass of wine or reading aloud the poems of Byron, Keats, and Shelley.
We see this stuff all the time but do not recognize it for what it is: a whole lot of love, right there in plain view of our impressionable youth.
I like to harken back to my boyish adventures in my old ‘57 Oldsmobile convertible, pink with a black top and replete with fender skirts and tear-drop spotlights and spinner hubcaps.
The local drive-in movies were the preferred hangouts of youngsters of my generation. Friday and Saturday nights were an enchanted and dreamlike paradise with a heaven of starlight and buttered popcorn and kisses that tasted like bubblegum.
Believe it or not these bizarre behavior patterns were the courtship rituals of our time, and they often played a critical role in the amorous stirrings of our peers.
Our parents blamed it all on rock-n-roll, of course. Not to mention the provocative dancing of the 50s and 60s.
The rock came from Southern gospel singers rocking back and forth and the roll emanated from erotic vernacular. The two terms Rock and Roll had naturally merged, forming a double entendre, typically referring to various suggestive or scandalous dancing styles, as well as the sharing of intimacy.
The music quickly became extremely popular among teenagers of all ethnicities, largely thanks to the radio antics of disk-jockey Alan Freed in Cleveland, Ohio, which was later chosen as the location of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
And even as our teachers and pastors rhapsodized on the virtues of abstinence and temperance, we teens secretly connived and schemed to sample the wine of life for ourselves—a behavior that seems characteristic of every fresh generation.
Songsters have sworn for millennia that the loves of their early adolescence were by far the most passionate and lasting of all they experienced—a stage of life that seems more beholding to love. For there is nothing half so sweet in life as love’s first young dream.
“Spring is the mischief in me,” wrote the poet Frost, and I am reminded of that sentiment every morning when our avian friends come calling. Some of the courtship displays are worthy of a few chuckles, once you know what is going on.
And if colorful plumage does not do the trick when attracting a potential mate, there is always the time-honored tradition of gift giving—nothing says “love” to any womanly creature like a bit of gourmet fare.
Many bird species display a ritual called “courtship feeding,” in which one bird—usually the female, but not always—opens its mouth and appears to beg for food.
Yet, the birds are not the only life-forms that call upon that custom.
Even today, when I observe a cooing pair during their courtship cherishing ritual, in which the male gently places loving tidbits into his lady’s parted lips, I cannot help but remember spoon-feeding milkshakes to one young lady friend at the King-Tut Drive Inn during our own salad days.
Come to think of it, would it be not fun to put the top down on the convertible and pull up to the curb again this afternoon. After all, spring is the mischief in me.
Top o’ the morning!