Call and answer – the pure joy of discovering a magic trick

It’s a sunny day in the Jardin du Luxembourg. I’m walking on one of the raised balustraded terraces along a row of tall trees. Up in a branch, a bird is calling out. It is hidden from sight by the first spring leafs, but its two-tonal call sounds bright and clear.

Seconds later, it is answered by a second bird. Their dialogue continues, with short and regular pauses in between their exchanges. I’m imagining a romantic pursuit, although they might as well be sending out territorial warnings.

As I pass the birds, I notice that the answer doesn’t originate in a treetop, but comes from close to the ground. I scan the gravel surface around me. I’m curious to see which bird is making this distinct sound.

Underneath the tree, on a park bench, sits an older African man.  I look at him, while waiting for the birds to cry out. The call sounds, and when the African moves his lips in synch with the answer, I feel an intense rush of happiness. To my ears, he has mimicked the bird’s two-tonal call perfectly. I send him a warm smile, hoping that it resembles that of a child who experiences the pure joy of discovering a magic trick.

He looks up at the tree, and then returns to me. His eyes ask: do you think the bird has figured it out yet?