Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Coffee, Quail and Moonglow

I slip out of the house into the cool, pre-dawn darkness and walk to the end of our gravel driveway with a cup of coffee in one hand and a pair of binoculars in the other. The nearly-full moon hangs low in the western sky, and to its left Jupiter shines bright and hard. I lift the binoculars and there they are: Io, Europa, Callisto and Ganymede, the four easily-observable Galilean moons that ring Jupiter like tiny jewels.

They are beautiful, hanging up there in the velvet sky, and I never tire of watching them, but I am not standing here in this chill half-light just to stargaze. I sip my coffee and wait. It doesn’t take long before I hear it: the soft cadence of quail calling all around me.

I’ve found myself doing this every morning for the past few weeks as the promise of fall gradually becomes a welcome reality. I drink my coffee outside, watch the stars and listen to the neighborhood quail talk to each other, dreaming of dogs and birds and cold mornings afield as the sky slowly brightens above me.

Eventually my own reality intrudes and I must go back inside, make breakfast, see children off to school and go to work myself. But the memory stays with me and serves as a balm to the routine craziness of everyday life.

I’m sure there are those who would scoff at the notion that listening to a bunch of birds whistle at each other is a form of mental health, and that modern pharmacopeia is the answer to whatever demons - real or imagined - might ail my spirit.

Thanks, but I’ll stick to the birds. The call of a wild quail is, for me, a far more effective anti-depressant than anything cooked up by Big Pharma. When I want my willy to work, I'll take their pills*. When I want to feel better about the world, or myself, I'll walk outside and listen for a quail. Thankfully, no one has yet figured out a way to synthesize and bottle that. 

*Just for the record, my willy works fine without pills, not that there's anything wrong with that...


  1. Sounds like a great prescription, Chad. No quail here (although the old-timers will tell you about when the canyons were full of them), and my deer are pretty quiet for the most part. But standing out in the morning dark with a cup of coffee is sometimes close enough, I think.

  2. End of the driveway? Damn I'm jealous.

  3. We hear them now and then behind our back fence on the old railroad track bed; sometimes I see them scurry if I go back there for something.