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Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Song of the Red-winged Blackbird

Credit: Chris Takacs

Today the “conk-la-ree” call of the Red-winged blackbirds filled the marshes. Bald Eagles perched high in the trees watched the ice below begin to break apart. Belted Kingfishers rattled over the river and for a while, for at least a short time, a very special time, all was right in the world again.

 It seems that spring may never come as snow piles up like icebergs that line the streets and woolen hats, gloves and warm boots rule the day. Our staying at home caused by COVID and made worse by ice-packed trails and frigid temperatures seem to amplify the thoughts, feelings and fears of things continuing the way they are forever.

But on this day, as I sat on a bench along the river, sun in my face and my feet deep in snow, those feelings were to be forgotten and put aside as the Red-winged Blackbird, the “Spirit of the Marsh,” presented its marshland melody for the world to hear.

The Red-winged Blackbird has always had a special place in my heart and played an important role throughout my life. From growing up to adulthood, from births to deaths, from sadness to joy, the Red-wing has always been there for me displaying its bright Red epaulets, fearless and steady.

It has been there when all else seemed to fail and provided me with a consistency and reliability when everything else seemed to be confusing and unclear. And this year again, just when I needed it the most, the Red-wing sang.

On this magnificent morning as the Red-wings echoed through the reeds I was assured that spring would be here soon and that nature, like us, would be moving ahead in all its glory and with all its many continuing challenges despite our human frailties and doubts.

Our connection to nature has been challenged over the years. Out shouted, over shadowed and covered up by our many distractions, we can decide to overcome this by merely stepping outside and taking in all nature has to give us. And at the same time giving a little back as a way to say thank you for it always being there when it is most needed.

Step outside and listen to the song of the Red-winged Blackbird. It will renew the soul and strengthen the heart. It will remind us that we are still connected to the natural world and stir our spirit and forever bring us back to a place where our love of nature will always be part of who we are.

On this magnificent morning I sat back and listened to the Red-wing, and once again I was assured that all would be right in the world.