Published on April 14, 2020

The river takes on spring sounds, colors

By Janice Edwards / The Bulletin

“The Minstrel of the dawn is here
To make you laugh and bend your ear…” - Gordon Lightfoot

Roy and I live at the end of the San Bernard River - WAY out in the country. Living on the coast so close to Mother Nature, we’ve learned to become more sensitive to and appreciate the changes she brings our way. The birds, the fish and the people are all subject to her changes. I was listening to Mother Nature one day last week, when the dogs woke me to go out at dawn, and I witnessed my first Spring Minstrel of the Dawn down here at the end of the river.

With the low tides of winter, the mouth of the San Bernard is again struggling to remain open, but the Singing River sings on. Even though he’s having some trouble finding his own voice, I think old San Bernard has a couple of tricks up his sleeve. On this blue-sky, sunshiny day, I think he used them all. The words of Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Minstrel of the Dawn” came bubbling up in my mind and could easily have been written about the old San Bernard and Mother Earth that morning…

“A minstrel of the dawn is near
Just like a step’ n fetchit here
He’s like an old-time troubadour
Just wanting life and nothing more…”

The first thing I noticed was the glass-calm river and the group of Black Bellied Whistling Ducks gliding toward the other side of the river, leaving behind a multi-V pattern across the water. There wasn’t a cloud in the blue sky. And then, both our dogs sat down at the edge of the deck and perked up their ears, and I began to hear the Minstrel tune up.

“Look into his shining eyes
And if you see a ghost, don’t be surprised.
Like me and you,
He’s tryin’ to get into things
More happy than blue…”

The White Pelicans in breeding plumage began their low drumming, and then the Seagulls took flight and added their cries of joy. About three dozen Black Bellied Whistling Ducks landed in the side yard, plying their whistling songs, which startled the Grackles, who added their loud protests. The Red-Winged Black Birds, discovering the fresh supply of bird seed, “skewalked” as their contribution to the song.

And then, I heard the Mockingbird happily announcing his territory to all who would listen. The Mallards quacked with glee between mouthfuls of corn. And the cheerful Purple Martins began their morning song - just because they were glad to be alive.

The wind gently roused and brought the faint sounds of the surf caressing the beach.

The river had orchestrated the perfect morning song – full of promise of new life in the coming spring when all of nature seemed to be stretching after waking from her winter nap. It was just a moment, shared by my dogs, and then it was over. But the Minstrel had left a promise – one of spring, new life and the re-opening of ‘ole San Bernard’s mouth this year.

“The minstrel boy will understand
He holds a promise in his hand.
He talks of better days ahead
And by his words, your fortune’s read.
Listen to the pictures flow
Across the room into your mind they go…”

I guess we can no longer live in winter grays along the river. The announcement of spring made by my Minstrel of the Dawn has begun to turn into the colors of the wildflowers currently making their appearance alongside F.M. 2918. Though the Minstrel’s gone, his song still lingers.

”The minstrel of the dawn is gone
I hope he’ll call before too long.
And if you meet him, you must be
The victim of his minstrelsy.
He’ll sing for you a song
The minstrel of the dawn…”

Mother Earth’s song continues in the spring heartbeat, the annual migrations of fish and birds - life going on. With tomorrow’s dawn, grab a cup of coffee and meet Mother Earth on your deck – and listen. You may hear the strains of the Minstrel of the Dawn tuning up.

(Write Jan in care of The Bulletin. Email: john.bulletin@gmail.com. Snail mail: The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX, 77516.)