Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Melody (08/24/06)
TITLE: Jenny's Joy-Jubilee
By Beth Muehlhausen
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Mother snipped a piece of heavy electrical wire with sharp cutters and then looped it around the handle of the pocked aluminum teakettle – the one with a campfire-blackened bottom. Then she proudly held the ends of the wire so the pot dangled freely, swinging ever-so-gently from side to side.
“There. We can hang it...with just a twist or two of the pliers. This will be good for a Jenny Wren’s nest…a perfect cradle for her babies.”
I was seven years old at the time and had no idea who Jenny was or why we should want her to come live in our teakettle hanging from the maple tree. However, I obediently followed Mother outside our log cabin - watched her wiggle a small wooden chair in the grass to find a flat spot - and held the back of the chair as she stepped onto the seat. “Hand me the kettle, now. We’ll point the spout toward the bedroom window. Then we can watch.”
The days grew longer and warmer, and the kettle hung in the tree, unvisited. I pursued my usual activities – feeding the wild kittens in the woodpile and chasing tadpoles in the creek below the artesian well’s splashy, icy-cold water and slippery, red-orange slate.
One morning while Mother walked to the end of the dead-end road to check the contents of our mailbox, I heard an unusual sound: rapid, shrill warbling.
A frantic, musical torrent spilled from the maple tree as a volcanic song erupted - almost as if the singer lacked sufficient time to spit out all the notes. I darted to the bedroom, pulled back Mother’s blue home-sewn curtains with red and white rick-rack trim, and quietly flipped the black wrought-iron window latch. My heart lurched as the swollen frame stuck with a “crr-ick-ack.” Why did it have to be so noisy? I cautiously pushed the window open and searched the leafy branches.
Had Jenny arrived at last?
A very plain-looking, tiny brown bird with clear, beady eyes sat on the spout of the teakettle, singing at the top of her lungs. Her entire body seemed to tremble with intense effort as she belted out a sweet homecoming song. I cautiously pressed my forehead against the screen to watch: did an angel’s voice flow from that little bird’s throat? The melody repeated over and over with a characteristic lilt at the end – “Tee tee teedle teedle teedle dee deeeee…”
Our Jenny; she’d come to live in the kettle!
The bird’s jaunty little body seemed hardly big enough to produce such an intense refrain. And yet Jenny’s mesmerizing warble rippled through me in the same way a mountain spring might bubble up after being immobilized by winter ice. Her repetitive song of ecstasy tumbled in cascades, digging deep channels in my soul.
Within a few days Jenny’s nest began to take shape inside the dark recesses of the kettle; various stubborn sticks protruded from the spout, refusing to fit. However, Jenny continued to sing while she worked with relentless, optimistic energy. She busily flitted here and there, but also periodically perched on the spout to tell me how things were going. “Tee tee teedle teedle teedle dee deeeee.”
As I went about my daily rituals - nurturing maturing kittens and tadpoles - Jenny’s melody invaded some previously uncharted territory within me. I seemed to hear it replay internally from a deep heart-spot, even at night as Jenny slept – even as I lay on the porch in the darkness, waiting to fall asleep amidst the gruff tunes of bullfrogs.
“Tee tee teedle teedle teedle dee deeeee.”
Eventually Jenny deposited eggs in her nest inside the rocking cradle-kettle, and spent more time inside than out. But then one day I noticed her delivering a variety of wiggly insects through the spout to feed her new brood.
A simple, ordinary Cinderella-type bird, little Jenny worked hard as a new mama – but also shared her cheerful melody with no thought of reward for the sweetness enjoyed by her family and neighbors. She sang with characteristic gusto whenever time allowed.
Jenny taught my young heart an important lesson: God conducts the orchestra of life by instilling a unique song within each of His creations. Jenny’s melody was one of joy.
Today my heart-song is one of praise to the One who sent the little brown messenger my way fifty years ago – praise that swells and overflows from a spot awakened and watered by Jenny’s musical river of song.
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