Robin Song

The female robin lit on the top of the chain link fence that separates my patio from the parking lot.  The bouquet of grass clutched in her beak made it obvious that she was constructing a nest. She sat on the fence for some minutes as Lauren and I stood on the nearby patio chatting. We remarked on the grass the bird was carrying and wondered why she wasn’t moving on.  Truthfully, she looked as though she was feigning nonchalance.

 “Who me? Just hanging out here on this fence. Grass? What grass? Oh this grass in my beak? Oh that’s nothing , really…”

Then it came to me—she was building her nest in the small tree beside the patio– the one by Lauren’s window that is not really a tree so much as a round bush with a bit of a trunk. The robin, I surmised, was being very careful not to signal the location of the nest to us by carrying her load of grass to its destination while we were watching.

She hopped down off the fence toward the parking lot side, away from the patio. I watched as she walked with stealth between the curb and the neighbour’s car bumper until she was positioned on the far side of the slender tree trunk from where I was standing. Lauren had gone back inside, and I moved to the far end of the patio and deliberately turned away. I glanced back just in time to catch a glimpse in my peripheral vision of the robin zipping up into the cover of the leafy branches. As soon as she could see I wasn’t watching she had made a dash for the nest.

Except of course I had seen her, and so had Lauren watching through the window—a vantage point no robin could be expected to account for. She couldn’t know that, despite her best efforts, she had failed to keep her secret safe.

On the other hand, she couldn’t know that we were never really any danger to her in the first place. We have no intention of harming her nest.  In fact, now that we know the nest is there, we can take measures to protect it– to ensure that when the cat joins us outside, we will keep her leash anchored in such a way that she can’t reach the tree.

nest

Last year’s real estate

Reflecting on the care with which the robin manoeuvered around the perceived danger to the security of her nest, I wondered how much effort I expend on guarding my own gates against threats that aren’t really threats at all. How often do I misjudge something as malevolent when in fact it is perfectly benign, or even potentially benevolent towards me? What secrets am I guarding that really don’t need to be secrets at all, because I the threat from which I am guarding them is not quite the threat I imagine?

I wanted to be able to tell the robin everything was ok. That she should carry on building her nest. That she would get no trouble from me. But she would not have understood, because I can’t speak to her in robin song.

And how often has the universe tried to tell me not to be afraid in a song I didn’t understand?

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About Muddy River Muse

Writer. Reader Educator. Manager. Mother. Dreamer. And dedicated riverbank walker.
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3 Responses to Robin Song

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I love your reflections on being human based on being robin! For the first time this year a robin built its nest under my kitchen window. It wasn’t an ideal spot – inside a missing brick in a wall and too low to the ground – but I got so involved with her robin life and the six (yes, six!) chicks she reared. I was particularly taken by how she sat patiently for two weeks (instead of flying!) and then the very hard work afterwards of bringing food. You can hear a twist can’t you? Yes, two local cats took every single chick despite my efforts to protect the nest. I found it terribly hard to witness. I learned so much from the robins and had such pleasure watching the nest. Enjoy yours 🙂

  2. I do fear this next is too low to be totally safe. We have neighbours who allow their cats to roam (in spite of a bylaw prohibiting that)

  3. It is wonderful to witness nature in its natural state. It is also painful to witness some of the food chain events that occur in nature. We have seen two sets of blue bird babies this year, and so far no killings have transpired. We have boxes for the nests that are well protected, but once the babies leave the nest, we have no idea what happens to them. We just keep our fingers crossed and remember how cute they were in the nest. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

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