Naming what's around

I've been reading some Annie Dillard (a favorite) and Mary Oliver essays. One thing that strikes me is how much time spent in observation goes into any single paragraph. Another thing that strikes me is their ability to name the things around them. In the June issue of The Sun magazine there is a quote by Terry Tempest Williams, "Perhaps the most radical thing we can do is to stay home, so we can learn the names of the plants and animals around us; so that we can begin to know what tradition we're part of."

There is a creek one block from my house and I don't know what swims in it or what grows alongside it. Not that I don't look when I walk there but I don't stop to study and name. Likewise, in my own backyard I couldn't name all that grows.

I'm often awakened in the dark middle of the night (around 3:30 a.m.) by a chorus of birds. Loud and full. Boistrous even. The sun is still hours from rising so I can't imagine that this is their greet-the-day song. I took Williams' advice and set to figuring out which of the many types of birds that live in the canopy of trees around my house this could be. I went online and found sites that played calls. My conclusion: The choir is made up of the humble robin. Listen here. Do you hear a choir such as this coming in your windows at night?