One of the travelers in our garden is the wren. If I were a better birder, I would be able to tell which one, Carolina, house, Bewick. No bigger than your thumb. Sometimes the beakful of insects they careen around with are as big as they are. Several pairs strike up residences in our garden, happy to let us know where they are and even happier to inform when you need to back off.
Wrens do not hold to a timeline to find a mate. They can meet their match in any season and set up housekeeping, mating for life. They find a place they like and then let ‘er rip. There is no bigger voice in garden, ounce for ounce. This rather pedestrian brown package produces a voice from golden pipes. Big, bold, beautiful, sassy, a veritable Ella Fitzgerald, throwing it down.
Away from the brushy area of the wren’s nest is a long row of sedums in my terraced garden. The sedums don’t come into their fullness until very late in the garden year, when the pangs of drought in July and August are just meeting the tender apologies of rainy September. The blossoming of the sedums provides a stage for even more incredible music.
Whether it’s the shadow of frost and freezing or the landscape is scarce on blooming plants, the sedum blossoms are covered with bees. Bees of every size, shape, color all humming to a personal beatbox. One plant can host what looks like hundreds of bees, all cooperatively harvesting the bounty of the sedum flowers. Humming, humming, humming without colliding with the virtuoso display of the bee next door, putting it out there, throwing it down. Like a jazz musician exploring the possibilities, pushing the envelope, improvising and dancing, without stepping on the toes of the other dancers.
My husband, The Big Man, was a consummate musician. I have never heard anyone play soprano sax like he did. (Kenny G — you joking?) Unbelievably, he started as a brass player, but was frustrated he wasn’t producing the sound he wanted. Somewhere toward the end of his baccalaureate program, he took up the saxophone and landed a gig with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. He went on to play with The Four Tops, The Temptations, Ray Charles, Mel Torme, Shirley Jones, Crystal Gayle to name drop a few. And then he gave it up for a day job. Silent but not forgotten.
Incredible music is about to be heard in Dayton, in honor of The Big Man. His friends, colleagues, mentors and teachers are gathering to celebrate his life, send their own music and memories into the heavens in late August, to the humming of the bees.
Help us send music students to school, those who will become the next generation of virtuosos and improvisors, visionaries. Won’t you join us?