summer

Urban Tropical : Golden Orioles, Parrots and a Cockatoo

Early mornings are special … and tropical Singapore mornings bring a ‘fresh’ perspective to urban living.

(A summer morning remembered, in the midst of this ‘wet’ winter).

Tropical summers linger in the memory as alliterative summer days: lazy, languid, lucid … sweltering, sultry, scorching.

 This morning, a breeze tosses the leaves of the rain trees. The air is thick and heavy but a daybreak zephyr works around and through it and I open the windows and welcome the new day into the house as the sun suggests its presence in a quietly brightening sky.

A rare cool summer morning, this, perfect for a walk with an eager Chocolate Beast of a Dog, an iPod and a customized playlist of one hundred and seven songs.

As I lace my shoes, the Chocolate Beast breathes into my left ear, gently urging.

The fishpond is teeming with tadpoles and the single spray of orchid bloom is still holding out; the buds getting to bursting point, but not yet there. The coral tree’s flowers are starkly red against the wall and the heads of pink lilies seek the sun.

 A kingfisher rises out of the fishpond, a bright red little fish in his beak; one of our Good-Golly-Miss-Mollies (the fishes so christened for their bright, bustling good cheer). Here, then, is the mystery of our rapidly diminishing fish population; and the muscled blue-brown bird flies to a nearby tree, observing with amused detachment.

Leonard Cohen sings you know you can, all controlled passion, as a green pigeon flutters across my path, white tipped grey-green plumage stirring the air further. A school bus maneuvers the narrow road and the thick silk of a black Labrador’s coat gleams like a raven’s wing as he ambles past, nose to the ground.

It has rained in the early a.m. hours; the ground is damp. A ray of sunlight reflects momentarily off a shimmering smear of wetness on the bitumen, a fleeting blaze of light, blinding.

Which brings to mind death, and ‘passing over’ and the news of the recent months, lost lives, lost opportunities, so many left behind in love and grief.

Still, the breeze freshens and the dew sparkles on the grass verges, a golden oriole sings its full throated song and a child holds her mother’s hand and dogs lead the way and a cockatoo erupts in a raucous swooping glide and a teenager trudges on, private, far away.

Joan Baez’s tremolo echoes the wind dancing ahead of us may you build a ladder to the stars, and climb on every rung, may you stay forever young … words to bless every child with, and I wish I had written them.

A cat on the pavement freezes into a baleful statue of coiled anticipation, unblinking eyes watching every step, every movement. Not a feline hair twitches; it’s focused concentration a laser beam of intensity as a confused squirrel executes a confused scramble – hither, thither, whither.

All around, it is fresh and new; birds congregate and parents chat by street corners and cleaners in uniforms rake leaves into tidy piles, the gold of their chains glinting in the light, their kohl rimmed eyes crinkling in a passing smile of acknowledgement, a morning ritual.

Have I told you lately croons gravelly Rod Stewart picking up the rhythm, the paeans of acknowledgment, benediction and praise contained in the song and I breathe deep the fragrance of white meraya blossoms and the glory of the frangipani.

A pair of golden orioles in a courtship glide swoops low on Camborne Road, brilliant yellow plumage gliding on air currents as they float to rest amidst the blooms of a scarlet bougainvillea. And then, incredibly, the cockatoo again; raucous, a screeching white harbinger preceding a cloudburst of red and green parrots, fifty, perhaps seventy five. It is Leonard Cohen again; dance me to your beauty, he sings, and I transpose the thought: if we could all dance in our beauty as we learn to be, amid the orioles, the blooms and the greening leaves.

So that when the dance is over and the walk is completed and the bus has turned the corner and the gladiator mynahs settle into a semblance of amicable truce, we can turn our thoughts inward and give thanks for the gift of another perfect summer morning.

Photographs by Anita Thomas, and from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurasian_Golden_Oriole

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