An óde is an impromptu melody of praise sung to God from a spirit-filled heart. For most species of songbirds, it is the male bird who arises early in the morning with a tune in his heart. For most species of songbirds, it is the male bird who leads lessons on singing.
Much like the songbird, the presence of a father is an essential part of a young male's identity. Without the modeling of a physical father, or fatherlike figure, walking by faith is often needed to acquire a real sense of direction and purpose.
Why Do Birds Sing Early in The Morning?
An ódé, written & performed by Ryan Williams French
I used to think that birds sing in the morning to welcome a new day.
An endearing way of celebrating the sun for her return.
I didn’t know then that male birds sing because they were looking for love.
I used to think that birds sing early in the morning out of happiness and glee.
I didn’t know then that fathers were teaching their sons how to love.
Like many people, I assumed birds sing because it’s their primary method of communication.
Like many people, I took bird songs for granted, sometimes despising the notes that awakened me in the morning.
In the space of silence, quarantine, and isolation,
birds and their songs have become a recent fascination.
I set aside the poems and began perusing through articles and books about birds.
Much to my surprise, I discovered that in most species of songbirds it is the male bird who carries the tradition of performance.
it was the male bird
who created the serenade.
With his voice, he tells his future mate that he is capable of love
With his voice alone he warns snakelike predators of his strength.
With his voice, he teaches his son lessons about his identity.
The Male bird arises early in the morning with a tune in his heart
“He knows that faith without love is nothing”
A strong voice capable of singing complex and melodious schemes is an indicator of virility to female birds.
The stronger the voice, the more capable the male.
The bird song is not only a symbol of the male’s strength
but also his relationship to his identity.
His sense of self.
Knowledge of who he is and where he comes from.
A father’s song for his daughter is one of safety and provision
A father’s song for his son is one of survival and tradition.
The presence of an invested father is highly critical to the success of the offspring’s future.
While the mother is indeed needed to care for the hatchlings,
it is the father who instills lessons of purpose and survival.
As observed with the nightingale,
Male birds who are unable to master the skill of singing encounter the most difficulty acquiring a mate, and often times die alone without the privilege of producing offspring.
Lessons on singing begin at an early stage.
Typically within the first few days of hatching.
At the break of dawn, father rises with his children and leads courses on singing.
The first few weeks of class requires much patience.
It’s a comical scene watching the baby chick
Mimic his father.
Much like a baby mimicking his parents through gibberish
The hatchling’s attempts are silly as he squawks and quacks his way through the lessons.
Creating phrases of discordant and unattractive sounds.
But father is patient.
He doesn’t abandon his young.
He knows the process of raising children requires love.
A father wants what’s best for his son.
To have a vibrant fruitful life.
A life of impact
For birds that means offspring.
Tiny crabs washed along the shore
Waiting to be taken home by children as pets
The sound of laughter from boys who laughed freely because their fathers had taught them to do so.
I’m five years old and I’m at the beach with my mother
We made frequent visits to the beach.
The sound of waves crashing along the Pacific Coast make up the foundation of most of my formative years.
I didn’t know my father.
But I would prod and beg my mother incessantly to tell me of his whereabouts.
“Why did he leave?” I’d often ask.
“I already told you, he always intended on coming back” she said
“But one day he wanted to see how close he could get to the sun.
I warned him but he never listened.
He kept flying higher and higher until his wings melted
and he went crashing into the sea.”
I didn’t believe her. I figured he left because of me.
Perhaps there was something wrong with me.
I would run back into the shallow salty waters and search for him.
I never found him, but I was always happy to discover a few small crabs that I would take home as friends.
Unfortunately, my friends would die within a few days due to homesickness.
They longed for the salt of the ocean.
known for his expansive repertoire of songs and sounds.
He’s a mesmerizing lover
Often alluded to in poetry and music.
And highly regarded in many cultures.
The Nightingale has become a symbol of romance and passion.
What distinguishes the nightingale from all other species of songbirds is his capacity to produce over 1,000 sounds.
His songbook contains over 300 documented ballads.
Unfortunately, his contributions to music are unrecognized.
The beauty of the bird’s song is often attributed to female birds.
But zoologists who study birds know that singing is a competitive sport reserved for the male nightingale.
In fact, the sport is so competitive only about 50% of male birds are successful at acquiring a mate during the spring.
Those who were unsuccessful spend the following year fine tuning and enhancing their singing skills.
I used to tell myself that I wanted to raise a daughter.
But the truth of the matter is I believed that I was incapable of raising a son.
I’d have to offer him lessons in singing
I’d have to lead him in courses I’d never passed.
I could see him now
Eight years old staring me in the eyes
demanding that I teach him a song.
Yes, a daughter is what I’d like.
It’d be far much easier for me to raise a daughter.
My grandfather gifted me a book when I was a child.
It was antiquated, heavy, & thick.
The words were writ in a time I could not comprehend.
It wasn’t until I was a man who was was brought down to my knees
that I felt a need to pick it up again.
It wasn’t until I was at war with myself in the morning,
in the evening and at all hours of the day
that I found myself hungering for its words.
Thirsting for this water its pages promised they could deliver.
In those pages,
I discovered a New Song.
The song was a lamp in a sea of darkness.
The song was water for parched soil that was incapable of nourishing seeds of love.
It was a song that I had never heard sung from other people.
The song was titled: The Greatest Love
The Love of a father who loves unconditionally.
About Love that is there for anyone who accepts.
About a father who loves the rejected, the weak, the widowed, and the fatherless.
As I read the stories and songs in the book
a small flame began to flicker from within me.
For the first time, I began to discover subtle knowledge of who I am.
As a man.
A man of God.
The song of strength doesn’t always sound like the roaring of a lion
Sometimes it’s more subtle and reliable like a heartbeat
Other times its gentle and fragrant like a rose
Perhaps that is why the birdsong is so captivating.
Even the nightingale knows that true strength is a balance of
vigor & beauty
violence & grace.
The story of David as a child striking Goliath dead with only a stone often overshadows the true reason why the LORD favored him.
For David was a man “who was after his father’s heart.”
The youngest of ten brothers.
No one expected much of him.
He was decent looking, unassuming, not of great stature.
No one expected much of him.
While his brothers were trained for battle and great conquests
David was assigned the tasks of caring for sheep in the wilderness.
While his brothers were fashioned for leadership
David protected his flock as though they were his own children.
At times wrestling lions and bears with his own hands to ensure their safety.
When David was not protecting his sheep,
He was singing praises to the LORD
Whom he regarded as his father.
Unafraid to explore his more passionate and creative side.
The LORD witnessed this.
The LORD loved David dearly for it.
Even in the midst of rejection
David knew that he was always accepted by his heavenly father.
And the LORD’s love for David, as well as all of his children,
could never be taken by anyone.
In the absence of my earthly father
I asked my heavenly father for courage.
Courage was the virtue I never possessed.
Courage was the root of my self-loathing
Courage was the source of all of my excuses.
Courage was the fuel that provoked my anger.
Pursuing courage was a humbling endeavor that brought me down to my knees.
It demanded strength of character.
Desperate to sing a new song
I fasted and I prayed.
Still to no avail there was a hole in my spirit.
And then I stumbled upon the most beautiful poetry.
Verses that informed me of my identity.
Verses that imbued me with knowledge of who I am
and I what I am capable of doing.
In this period of brokenness
The LORD became My Strength and My Song.
When I felt weak, I leaned into the comfort of his hands
And as any good father would do, he chided me where it hurt most.
Years and years of dysfunctional thinking, maladaptive behavior, and pathetic excuses made up the reflection in the mirror that was staring back at me.
But now there was no time for excuses.
Lacking courage from myself, the Word became my sword.
I used to think that I was the sum of other people’s suggestions, assessments, judgements, and projections.
But I know now that I am absolute everything that my father says about me.
I used to think that I was no more than my past failures, fuck ups, burned bridges, and mistakes.
I know now that I am absolute everything that my father says about me.
I’m 29 years old
And I’ve awakened to a chorus of male birds crooning outside of my apartment.
I chuckle at the thought of these birds wooing their female companions.
A chorus of winged Romeos reciting verses of longing and passion that would give Neruda a run for his money.
How fortunate these female birds are to be desired so dearly.
In the space of silence, quarantine, and isolation
I join the chorus of birds and begin singing as well.