Song of the blackbird

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The blackbird has a song that is made for rain.  Perhaps it is the mournful tone of its tune, or the way it pierces the stillness before a storm.  Perhaps it is the way the song haunts me, so sadly beautiful it makes my heart ache.  You’ll usually find the blackbird at the highest point in a landscape, trilling its lament.  For as long as I remember, I’ve associated the bird with rain.  Its song is loud and lonely in the quiet before the rain comes and in the blurred aftermath among the soft drip of raindrops from the leaves.  When the landscape is quiet and expectant and I hear the blackbird sing, I know  it’s about to rain.

Copyright: Mandy Bland

My first memory of writing takes place in the rain.  I must be about ten and I’ve been to Brownies on a Friday night.  I’m with my father and we’re waiting for the bus home.  Dad stands watch outside while I sit in a bus shelter, dark and rain-washed, writing my version of a Nancy Drew mystery in a black, hard-backed exercise book with red corners.  I must have written stories and essays before for school, but this is the first time I remember writing for fun.  The story wasn’t my own, but something in it made me pick up a pen and try to write it in my own words.

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Since then, I have always associated rain with creativity.  Perhaps it’s my watery soul, but there’s something about rain that never fails to inspire me.  When the sky darkens, my body responds.  There’s a tingle, an expectation, a melancholy, that makes me want to write.  I prefer to be tucked up behind glass, preferably with nowhere to go and nothing to do.  With rain that is heavy enough to patter on the windows, drum on the roof and blur the landscape beyond the glass, like melting wax oozing down the pane.  Or to be walking among trees, where I can hear the thrum of the rain on the leaves and smell the wet vegetation.

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I appreciate rain in all its guises.  The glowering sky of a downpour or the bright eerie light heralding a thunderstorm.  A rising wind bringing rain on its tails.  The fat, heavy droplets that stain the ground with splodges, or the drench of fine summer rain.  I love the gurgle of rain in the gutters and rushing down drainpipes.  The swirl of water on tarmac and the dance of ripples in puddles.  Rain has its own discordant melody: a humming, stuttering, hissing song .  It isn’t always easy when you’re in it, particularly the needles of rain that have the promise of winter in them.  But rain soaks the senses, so it’s no surprise that it stimulates creativity.

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Rain wakes up the land.  Deep beneath the earth, seeds that lie dormant sigh in exhilaration as the rain drenches them.   Shoots unfold, desiccated plants expand and fungi fruit.  Rain wreaths the earth with its own scent: the brassy petrichor of soil, stone and parched vegetation.   The scent of rain is a hint on the air, just like the blackbird’s song, telling me that the storm is coming.  And my creative instinct stretches and flexes its muscles, waiting for the deluge.

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And when the storm is over, rain brings the world into focus.  The world is softer, but more pronounced.  There is a stillness after rain, just as there is a stillness before it.  Spent raindrops create their own drowsy percussion.  The voices of birds, quieted by the storm, re-appear jubilantly.  Colours are more vibrant and the musky scent of the earth simmers in the air.  The end of the storm feels celebratory, perhaps only because the rain is over or perhaps because it has revived the landscape.  And for the length of a storm, my creativity has been revived too.

100 thoughts on “Song of the blackbird

  1. I was in Brownies too! I enjoyed reading about your first memory of writing. I remember rushing home from school to make up stories with my stuffed animals and later starting to write down stories 😉

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  2. I love this piece, Andrea. I remember a night spent in a hut in Cameroon which had a tin roof – the rain was loud, and then louder, and then so loud that I couldn’t imagine that it could get worse, and then it did. And then it stopped, and the frogs and crickets started their own symphony. I remember a radio programme where a blind man said he could ‘see’ the shape of a bush by the sound that the rain made when it fell on it. And I love how fresh the colours are after a shower, and how perky the plants seem. Thank you for the inspiration!

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    • Thanks Vivienne, that must have been a wonderful rainstorm in Cameroon – we regularly go to a cabin in the forest that has a metal roof and it is amazing when it rains. I love the thought of being able to ‘see’ through the way the rain falls.

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  3. What a lovely memory. The coziness of rain does make one want to stay indoors and be creative. Whenever there is a snowstorm, I am very creative: finishing an entire painting in one day, for example. Here’s wishing you many rainy, creative days!

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  4. Such a lovely post, Andrea. You remind me of how special the rain became to me when I lived in New Mexico. In the desert (even high desert) rain is a significant thing. While here it is just more damp, more drear. I loved how you said “And when the storm is over, rain brings the world into focus.” Here’s to focus. Mega hugs.

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  5. A lovely piece, thanks Andrea. It stirred many memories and feelings. A startled blackbird in a hedge is one of my earliest memories. We were visiting Great Aunt Josephine. It was evening. I can’t remember what Aunt Josephine looked like, but I always associated the blackbird’s call with Aunt Josephine and evenings! It sort of gathers into an almost overwhelming nostalgia.

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  6. You make me want it to rain–even though we’ve just endured a few days of it!! I love your perspective on rain. I love rain as long as I don’t have to go anywhere. I’m not a fan of driving in it or having to run errands in it. But the sound of rain when I’m cozy inside, writing, with a mug of tea, or even watching a movie, yes, love!

    I think you’re right about the connection to creativity. Soaking the senses–perfect!!

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  7. My youngest and i share a love of rainy days. There is no pressure to be outside, active. They are days meant for contemplation, reading a good book, sipping tea by a fire. I love your ruminations on rain–as usual, you put it poetically.

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  8. I can see that your muse has burst forth in a cloud burst. Some of that rain you must have sent my way. What a beautiful post and it is true. Mind you my melancholy becomes my muse quite often but I can see that the rain can wash away all those doubts and fears. I do love to hear the rain on the skylight ( and hope there are no leaks lol). You have made music with the rain and I’m totally inspired. We have red winged blackbirds here and I’m not sure if the song is the same but they do seem to call an alarm.

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  9. Love this poetic prose singing a beautiful song of rain…I could almost hear the rhythmic fall on the leaves and roof, softly touching my heart and blending into my soul. Thank you for writing about the beauty of rain. 🙂

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  10. Andrea, this is a marvelous post! You capture so much of my experience as well, for which I am grateful. For so much of the past year we longed for rain and the world seemed out of joint and creativity, in some way, inaccessible.Such a relief to have rain!

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  11. Oh Andrea, you never fail to stir my soul with your beautifully descriptive writing and photographs. What a wonderful memory of you and your dad ❤ I too love the rain, in fact, it is raining as I read your delightful post. There is something quite delicious about being tucked up inside writing to the sound of rainfall outside. My daughter listens to a continuous soundtrack of rain and soft thunder to help calm her anxiety as she sleeps. When I walk past her room and hear it, whatever the weather outside, I always feel a wonderful comfort. So lovely to read you again my friend xxx

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  12. Gosh, this beautiful, lyrical post Andrea conjures up so many memories … particularly rainstorms in a Tuscan summer – such short, determined downpours after which the air was full of the most glorious scents.
    I have never thought of rain linked to creativity. But you are absolutely right. Rain is energy, survival, sustenance, baptism in movement. And creativity is exactly that.
    I love, love, love the image of the dormant seeds being exhilarated.
    Fabulous!

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  13. Such a beautiful ode to rain you have written here, Andrea! All the sounds and stillness, and the blackbird song. Rain brings the world into focus indeed. Even the air looks brighter after the rain. I would love to put on my wellies and walk through the wet fallen leaves listening to the blackbird song, and never look back 🙂

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  14. This is beautifully written. You had me seeing, hearing, tasting, touching and smelling a rainy day. I will remember this for tomorrow, when it is forecast to rain here. Right now, it’s gorgeous outside … crisp air and a cobalt sky.

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  15. Such awe-inspiring writing, Andrea, about the rain. Thoughts like these are beautiful and very evocative: “The fat, heavy droplets that stain the ground with splodges, or the drench of fine summer rain. I love the gurgle of rain in the gutters and rushing down drainpipes. The swirl of water on tarmac and the dance of ripples in puddles. Rain has its own discordant melody: a humming, stuttering, hissing song.”

    And you liked Nancy Drew mysteries too! I think I must have read them all. I can glimpse partial titles such as “… in the old oak tree…” How lucky we were to have a girl detective to be one of our heroes.
    Now, here’s a question: do blackbirds always sing before the rain?

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    • Thanks very much Cynthia. Yes, I liked Nancy Drew – I don’t remember any of the stories but I do remember that in the one I ‘re-wrote’ her aunt was doing some baking in the kitchen! As for your question, I don’t know – the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds say that blackbirds typically sing after rain, but as for before rain….in my world they always seem to 🙂

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  16. Me, too, Andrea. And said so lovingly and in lovely prose, too. Back when I was more athletic, I even liked jogging/running in rain, not minding the mud (until afterward). Night and rain, as long as I don’t have to drive, are near-heavenly to me.

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  17. Beautiful post, Andrea. 🙂
    As a child I always had interesting thoughts about rains. The water droplets oozing from the sky always fills me with joy and wonderment.

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  18. I love how you described the blackbird’s song and then transitioned into the rain. Beautiful, transportive writing. I like to hunker down in the rain to read or to watch movies. I like having an excuse to be still. 🙂

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  19. A beautiful piece, Andrea! You describe the rain so well. Many of my family members are rain enthusiasts, and of course I enjoy it too, though not as much as they do. I am most alive in the sun. My mom and bonus dad (stepfather) moved up to Washington just to live in an area that receives a lot of rain. My husband and I have been married for thirty-six years, but when we were dating, he came to pick me up and was surprised when first my mom, then my bonus dad, came in, euphoric that it was raining, opened up the curtains and pulled up their chairs to the window so they could sit an watch the rain. When we left, he said, “I have never seen anyone so excited about the rain before.” As for writing weather, for me it is wind, which provides no comfort at all, but which provokes me to write, perhaps as a defense. Here in our region of Southern California, we are having little rain though we need it, and the Santa Ana winds, as they are called, are fierce. At any rate, your writing here is beautiful, distinguished, and truly memorable. Thank you!

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      • Andrea – I never tire of talking about the weather, writing about it, or hearing about it! Sensitive to micro-environments, the weather is significant to my moods, though not the sole determinor. My father liked the sunshine, and I have pondered my similarities to him in that respect. Conclusion: I feel mobile and energetic. Rain makes me feel slow, quiet, and sedentary, which can be quite nice sometimes. As for inspiration, the wind will do it every time, for good or ill.

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      • Isn’t the weather just wonderful? So many moods, perspectives, and feelings come with each change in the air. Here in my area, the Inland Empire valley of Southern California, we had a refreshing two days of moist, dark clouds, but little rain. Then, as is usually the case, the dry winds came through blowing them all away, bringing days too bright to glance out, and an odd feeling of annoyance (due to the positive ions, I think). My bonus dad is so attached to the rain (my brother too) that they are always in great spirits on rainy days. For them, the sun brings on a bland state of mind. Interesting that we have such nuances in response to our environments!

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  20. Andrea, what a beautiful homage to rain, not to mention the blackbird. Here, skies are darkening and marbled as I read your post, just the subtlest hints of a breeze brushing the trees, But whereas the rain stirs your creativity, it makes me want to grab my book and curl up in my most comfy chair and read.
    I am so excited to see you reading “The Outermost House”. I finally read this – after being inspired by one of his quotes over 15 years ago – and did a short blog post on it, if interested. https://stilladreamer.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/traveling-to-cape-cod-with-henry/
    I was deeply drawn in to his telling of every aspect of life and weather on the Cape. I have no doubt you’re enjoying it – it seems a perfect fit for you. Jeanne

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    • Thanks Jeanne – there are plenty of times when curling up with a book is what I want to do in the rain too 🙂 I’ve been over to visit your blog post on The Outermost House – I’m on the last chapter and have loved reading about it, particularly his atmospheric writing on night on the beach and the travels of the coastguard men through the night.

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  21. I enjoyed this beautiful post very much, Andrea. “When the landscape is quiet and expectant and I hear the blackbird sing, I know it’s about to rain” is wonderful. It reminds me of my grandmother and my mother talking about birds. I remember them saying that sparrows fluttering from tree to tree at harvest was the sign of hope, and cooing doves were the music of love on wedding days, birthdays, and even after funerals as continuing love for the one who has gone on before us.

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  22. You have captured in words and images two of my favourite things in life….the blackbird singing and rain. For me there is nothing quite so beautiful than to hear the blackbird’s magnificent song. Rain is calming for me, and yes very conducive to creativity.
    Thank you for such a lovely post, and for again starting my week on such a good footing…Janet:)

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  23. I so enjoyed your celebration of rain, Andrea — your writing is a pleasure to read. As I read this lovely essay, oddly enough, a downpour occurred outside. At the moment I am on the wet side of the Big Island in Hawaii, a place where it rains like no other on earth. It rains hard for 2 min., then the sun comes out; and this happens throughout the day. Your memorable words will stay with me as I enjoy the rain….

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  24. lovely images, delightful thoughts… i too love rain, although i will never argue with the sun breaking through in its turn.
     
    that click of the water dumping into the barrel – love the action in that wonderful water dance. thanks for sharing.

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  25. Such a sweet ode to the blackbird and the rain! I associate the blackbird with spring approaching and the lengthening of the days. I work at the airport and that means iworking shifts, often early. Cycling to the station at 5am is not exactly fun, especially if it rains. But at the end of winter and the beginning of spring it becomes magical… because of the blackbird! There is one in every tree you cycle past, singing its joy about spring. A wonderful choir in the rarely quiet city that never fails to touch my heart!

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  26. In a wonderful second of serendipity, I arrive to your post here just as a trove of blackbirds appear on a tree near my writing window, JUST AS IT BEGINS TO RAIN. I’m listening to the pitter pat and the birdsong, reading your words and getting goosebumps. However, there are so many black birds they’re making a racket, not a sweet mournful rain song.
    Your words and photos here are just so lovely. Yes, I love to write and read when it’s raining outside. The sense of solitude, in comfort and safety while the rain falls outside, leads to a release of the creative soul.

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  27. I’ve been writing a scene this week of someone running across a street when the rain has just started falling, when a storm has been brewing all day, that feeling of relief and celebration. You’ve done a much better job of writing about rain than I have! This is beautiful.

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  28. There’s a blackbird that sits on my roof singing every evening throughout spring and summer. It is such a beautiful song and one that my dog appreciates, too. She sits in the middle of the lawn listening intently to the sweet sound.
    I agree that there’s something inspiring about being indoors when rain is pattering at the window. Also, it’s strangely cosy walking in the woods when they’re in full leaf, with the rain pitter-pattering on the verdant canopy above.
    A wonderful post as usual, Andrea 🙂

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