It’s 5 a.m. and my husband and I are staring at the ceiling listening to drunken birds brawling, having a raucously good time above our heads.
For summer we moved our bed onto the shady back porch where the cool breezes and rustling leaves make us feel like we’re sleeping outside. The rustic porch has hinged windows all around and a clear corrugated fiberglass panel roof.
In spring we use the room like a greenhouse, starting seeds in the warm sunshine, but now it’s July and the shelves overflow with viney houseplants and summer bouquets.
As a sleeping place it’s idyllic. Calm. Peaceful. Restful. The perfect place to wake up. But we meant to be waking up about two or three hours from now, not at 5 a.m.
Our backyard cherry trees are two weeks past ripe and all the plump sweet cherries we couldn’t reach when picking have now fermented in the warm sun.
Squawking cherry juice soused birds are right this minute belting out off-key barroom versions of their mating calls while dancing above our heads. They drop the cherries on the corrugated roof and peck at them until the cherries finally roll off the edge of the roof and fall into the tall grass below the windows.
Sleep is over for us.
Grainy-voiced grackles, puff-chested robins, and swarthy, bragging jays swagger and boast over our heads. Scooshy half-eaten cherries roll down the slanted translucent green gullies, staining them purple. Juicy round globs fly off the roof edge.
A little scuffle-scuffle-scritch-scratch and the birds, following and pecking at rolling cherries, make their way to the edge of the roof where they spread their wings and leap-wobble into the air off the edge toward the next nearest tree branch. They make their way through the neighborhood like squirrels, hopping one branch to the next. Birds on a bender.
We watch three birds together performing toddling, arrhythmic, woozy dance steps. Other birds labor in the trees high above us, stabbing at dangling cherries on branches, pecking the air as the cherries bounce away, like bobbing for apples. Smarter birds yank them loose and drop them into the corrugated roof gullies where they poke more easily.
Our cats, also no longer asleep, sit on the bed with us, wide-eyed and alert, heads flipping one side to the other as they follow the tapping, scritchy, rolling sounds overhead.
On the edge of the roof past the eaves we see little upside-down bird shadows through the almost clear fiberglass. Our cats stealth to the window shelves where they sit, heads straight up, staring at bobbling shadows.
Apparently some kind of truce between cats and birds is called during fermented cherry-bash time. The cats, fascinated and nervous, watch, not daring to get closer.
Our cats aren’t real birders. Mostly they are quiet students of flight, diligently studying patterns of takeoffs and landings so they could, if they wanted, leap cleanly into that flight path and capture a bird. If they wanted to. Which they don’t. Or they would. They say.
This time of year, however, the cats give the birds wide berth. Though safely behind glass windows, the cats duck when tipsy birds swoop by, which makes us wonder if a loopy bird in its drunken brazenness pecked a cat head or two while wending its way back to the trees.
These birds aren’t behaving birdlike the way they should, timid and flighty. Their swirly leaps and remarkable arcing drops are so unpredictable our cats feel it far too dangerous to go anywhere near the unabashedly loud, gregarious birds.
Later this afternoon we may try to squeeze in a nap when the birds slip off into the shady branches to sleep off their cherry benders, but for the next week we know there’s no point trying to sleep past dawn.
My husband and I slip into our robes and head to the kitchen to make a VERY early breakfast.