It’s a rare sound in my neck of the woods. In fact, I can’t recall ever hearing the call of the Eastern whip-poor-will anywhere in the Laurentians of Quebec, where I have spent much of my life.
It started about a week ago, just after dusk. I heard it while I was working in my den with the window open. It has been extraordinarily warm in these parts this month and much of last month, too — with very little rain. The summery breeze coming through the window screen brought welcome relief from the day’s heat. And the call of the whip-poor-will made the evening more enchanting.
Well, if you know anything about whip-poor-wills — which I didn’t at first — they tend to go on and on and on and on with it. Most of the night through till dawn, when they go to sleep for the day. I don’t mind. I’m feeling honoured, actually, because I know after this one is gone from these parts, I may never hear the call of whip-poor-will around here again.
This morning, I found myself awakening at 4 a.m., which has been happening to me, coincidentally, for the past week or so. My partner awoke, too. We could hear the whip-poor-will’s call through the bedroom window screen, a little more haunting than the bright sound of the whip-poor-will in the video above. Maggie was less than enchanted, but I was still happy to hear it. I decided to do some instant research on whip-poor-wills, and googled it on my smartphone.
It seems the whip-poor-will is somewhat rare these days and has been the subject of many legends, among them that its nighttime call is a death omen. That one stuck in my mind as I fell back asleep, and it was the first thought on my mind when I woke up again a few hours later. No problem if it is portending my death, I thought. I’m ready to leave this crazy planet. I don’t mind. You can take me anytime, I told God silently.
With that last thought, I found myself answering some questions that followed it: what would my final report to God be? What is the future of mankind? Could I see a world of peace, harmony and true brotherly love developing some day?
Well, I thought, mankind is the only species in which one individual’s actions could destroy everyone, and take out a lot of other species with it. No other species could wreak such havoc, nor would even dream of doing so. And there is so much hate and discord that there is virtually no chance of true brotherly love developing among all of mankind. Man is both the most intelligent species on the planet and the most ignorant, and he will wipe himself out long before the planet dies a natural death.
Maybe the whip-poor-will knows that. Maybe this is the message of the whip-poor-will outside my window . . .