I am a big fan of the Summer Tanager. This
time of year he is full of verve. That hopping and skipping that
makes for enthusiasm. His call has a joyousness, but even though he
is very beautiful he will
never sing in the front row of a choir.
Later in this year, I will hear him and begin to
worry about him. I will hear not joyousness but what I once believed
was desperation. His call grates on a hot afternoon, and I wish he
would just stop.
Many birds nest late into the season. I have
seen Bluebird chicks and Cardinal chicks in August. I have seen baby
dove in September. So I imagine the Summer Tanager has every reason
to announce himself in the way that he does. Long into the summer,
this Tanager calls, all the way until September begins to touch that
moment when it feels like November.
Around July, when the afternoon is hot, and the
sensible ones are taking it easy, the tanager will be there on the dying
sycamore just yelling away. In August the same thing. In
September when the swallows are gathering for their movement south, I will
see him still in the sycamore tree with what I begin to feel is a tear in
his eye. I begin to think he has failed in his mission.
But in recent years, rather than perceiving
desperation in him, I see him as a post-structuralist. I say this
because I think of him as one who has no desire to be labeled. His
song is not to be placed within a dichotomy of breeding territory and the
season. He sings, simply because he thinks he is wonderful and wishes
to share his genius.
"Enjoy it while you can," he says to
me. And I have often endeavored to.