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April 25, 2007
How the birds wake us in the morning! That theirs is the loveliest of morning sounds, compelling me to turn off NPR in order to listen, does not affect the purpose of their song, which is either a) to get a date or b)to drive other birds away from their turf.

In the nesting season, a bird's song is the avian equivalent of a personal ad: Single male mockingbird, very long tail, wishes to meet SFM for a diner, a chase and more? You decide; I'm ready. Meet me by the tray feeder.

We were across the street in front of the church one Sunday morning, waiting for the procession to start. It was nesting season, which should have tipped us off about what was going on under one of the eaves of the roof over the porch, where two sparrows fluttered and squawked as if they were killing each other.

Are they fighting? someone asked.

I think they're getting married.

You're kidding! Right here?

Yeah. It's a church wedding.
The birds continued to go at it, while we all stood around suppressing smiles. After a while the processional started up inside, and we had to go.

People in medieval times used to marry at the church door, not inside -- just like our randy birds. What was that custom made of? A little churchly suspicion of sex, of course, and maybe a desire to somehow keep the church at a bit of a distance from the rite. But the memory of this ancient circumspection, whatever its reason, is instructive for us, because it enshrines a truth: the Church doesn't marry people. Neither does the state. People marry each other. The church may bless and the state may enroll the witnesses, but people marry each other. They alone decide whether or not to pledge themselves to each other.

Perhaps the decision to fish or cut bait on gay marriage is like that: something we do ourselves. Maybe a person just has to decide either celebrate this gift of God that we share with the birds and everybody else or not to celebrate it, and maybe human society won't crumble if there is some diversity in the way it is handled from place to place. I think it will not, since there has been, for as long as there has been human history, inside the church as well as outside -- plenty of diversity in this area. And it hasn't killed us yet.

Let's Fall In Love

Birds do it, Bees do it,
even educated fleas do it,
Let's do it, Let's fall in love.

In Spain, the best upper sets do it,
Lithuanians and Letts do it,
Let's do it, Let's fall in love.

Some Argentines, without means, do it,
People say, in Boston, even beans do it,
Let's do it, Let's fall in love.
Romantic Sponges, they say, do it,
Oysters, down in Oyster Bay, do it,
Let's do it, Let's fall in love.

Cold Cape Cod clams, 'gainst their wish, do it,
even lazy Jellyfish do it,
Let's do it, Let's fall in love.

Electric eels, I might add, do it,
Though it shocks 'em I know.
Why ask if shad do it,
Waiter, bring me shad roe.

In shallow shoals, English soles do it,
Goldfish, in the privacy of bowls, do it,
Let's do it, Let's fall in love.
- Words and music by Cole Porter, ca. 1928
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