One night, shortly after I returned from India, I thought I heard a baby crying on the hillside. I went outside with the flashlight. The sound was faint, then it disappeared altogether, but it was enough to tell me that, whatever it was, it was definitely not human. Most likely a fox, I thought, and went back in the house. They sometimes make a strange, high-pitched wail and the woods behind my house is full of gray foxes.
A few days later, my son came in and asked if all the cats were accounted for. When I told them they were, he said he thought he heard a cat meowing as he walked up the driveway.
Not long after that I heard the sound again. This time I decided to follow it and it didn’t take long before it led me to a tree. Actually, a copse of six juniper trees with the rotted out log of an old scrub oak in the middle. I stared up into the branches, crawled underneath. It wasn’t an animal or insect making the sound, but the tree itself. From deep inside the trunk came something that sounded almost melodious, high like a whistle.
I admit I’m a tree hugger. There’s just so much life in trees. I’ve always loved them, always found a certain comfort in them. I still remember the rough texture of the bark on the apple tree I climbed as a child and the awesome presence of the redwoods that surrounded my house in Felton, Calif. There’s a scrub oak outside my bedroom window that I’ve watched grow over the years. Times when I’ve felt low, I go sit under it, lean against its sturdy trunk and it calms me.
But it’s only recently that I’ve begun to hear the juniper sing. It does come with the wind. On still days, the tree is silent, so probably there’s a logical, scientific explanation for it, but it doesn’t change the mystery.
There’s a tree singing in my front yard.