There is a rookery of crows in the woods across the street from my house. I love the raucous, exuberant cries of the birds leaving their nests in the morning and returning in the evening. Get a good-sized “murder” of crows vocalizing together and you’ve got quite a sound!
Late one afternoon last week, finishing a long walk with my dog Joey, I neared the woods just as dozens of crows were coming in for the night. Most were making their characteristic cacophonous sounds—but from their midst, two or three uttered a single syllable that sounded like the word sing. I stopped to listen hard. Sure enough, over and against the “caws” of the many, a few crows were calling, “Sing.” No hurry. Just every now and then there came that single syllable, Sing!
I found the crows’ directive amusing, especially since earlier in the day, a friend had posted something on Facebook that touted the benefits of singing. The notice claimed that singing for at least ten minutes a day can, among other things, clear sinuses and reduce stress.
But I wasn’t thinking about either the crows or the Facebook post the next morning, Ash Wednesday morning, when I awoke feeling heavy-hearted and disquieted. I’ve been feeling that way a lot lately, but for some reason, the heaviness seemed heavier than usual. Trying to set it aside, I got up anyhow and went about the day. Intermittently I ruminated about what Lenten discipline to choose this year; for several days I had been thinking about possibilities, but I hadn’t reached a decision.
I don’t know at what point it happened, but by the time I went to a 7 p.m. Ash Wednesday service at my church, I knew: I would sing. It was as though the combined force of the Facebook words and the crows had taken me over and decided for me. And so that is my Lenten discipline this year: every day until Easter, whether I feel like it or not, I will sing for at least ten minutes.
That has been harder than it sounds. I will never have a sweet songbird voice. I sound more like the raucous, croaky crows. But hard or not, in the mood or not, that is what I am doing. I’ve been at it for nearly a week. I have sung along with CDs in my car and with “free singing lessons” videos on the internet. Sometimes I sing in the house (especially if no one else is home) or sometimes out walking Joey (as long as no one else is around). I sing familiar hymns and old Girl Scout campfire songs. I’ve also been singing “I Talk to the Trees” quite a lot. From the stage musical Paint Your Wagon, it is originally a love song—but somehow this week, it has become a prayer.
Are my sinuses clearer? I’m not sure. Is my stress level lower? The jury is still out. But maybe, just maybe—at least during those intentional ten minutes of singing, and perhaps at other times during the day when a song returns and I find myself accidentally humming.
Have you too been feeling disquieted of late? Would you be willing to join me in this practice for the remaining five weeks of Lent? It would be so good to know myself in the company of other people using whatever breath and voice they have to sing whatever they want, wherever they are, for at least ten minutes each day. Let me know—and after Easter, let’s compare notes and see what, if anything, might have happened to us along the way.
© Angier Brock 2017