As I walked the Ridgeway and then the Cotswold Way, I kept hearing a bird song that melodically warbled on and on coming from some winged singer that seemingly never paused for breath. Every time I heard it, I stopped and looked, but I could never see the bird. I couldn’t even figure out where the sound was actually coming from.
One day, on the Cotswold Way, at a place where another path crossed mine, and as I was investigating an ancient barrow marked by a standing stone, the song started practically in my ear. Still, I could not see the singer. It seemed so close I thought, “I am not leaving here until I see this bird.” I took off my pack and propped it against a fence post. Then I went down the side-path in what I thought was the right direction; but to no avail. As I was returning, another hiker came along the path. I asked him if he knew what bird it was that sang like that. He said it was a Skylark! He said they fly in circles high into the air and sing while ascending and descending. He pointed to the bird fluttering in the air. It was so high it was barely visible.
Of course! I felt that I had suddenly sunk into the REAL soul and heart of England and was as close to it as Shelly. “Thou art unseen, and yet I hear thy shrill delight.” Neither Shelly nor I had been able to see a Skylark. I was a fellow witness with George Meredith as he wrote his poem, “The Lark Ascending.” I was a fellow musician of Ralph Vaughn Williams as he wrote the music! Now I had heard the real music! I also remembered that other song about a skylark: “Skylark, have you anything to say to me?” Hoagy Charmichael. One of my favorites.
The joy of it! I had experienced that Oh So English heavenly messenger, and was surrounded by the spirits of its other admirers–including the man on the trail. I thanked him sincerely.
After he left, I also thanked the spirits of the standing stone and the barrow at this “X-MARKS-THE-SPOT” cross road in the trail.