What A Robin Taught Me

Just be yourself

In one corner of a rectangular gazebo in my garden, partly hidden by the leaves of a Clematis vine not yet in bloom, I noticed a bird’s nest. When I took a closer look, I saw it was perfectly finished, undamaged and as yet unused. I marveled at the precision and skill of that simple bird whose identity was still unknown to me. I decided not to mention anything to Brad, my gardener, because I knew there was not much he could do about the noise level while he cut the grass. Hoping for the best, I crossed my fingers and continued my garden work.

April and May are my busiest in the garden. There are many jobs that follow one another and are time sensitive. Removing dead growth from perennials, preparing and edging flower beds, raking thatch from lawns and dividing plants for propagation. So I had a lot of opportunities to pass by the nest and check the status. To my delight and surprise, it was my husband Robert, supporter of all things garden, who snapped the first shot of four beautiful robin’s eggs. Then it all made sense. The diligent robin I had frequently noticed on the garden fence had built a nest for her soon to arrive family and wanted things to be ready before time. Then the self talk began…

How close should I get to the nest. How often can I pass by. What would happen if I look directly at her. Like many others when faced with a new experience, I am not always sure what to do. I decided to just try something and go from there. Days went by, giving me ample time to observe the birds sharing the work of caring for their clutch. Female Robins sit on the eggs to incubate them while the males search for food for the female and the chicks when they arrive.

Everyone eventually settled into their roles and a tolerance – you might even say a respect – developed between me and the birds. I was able to walk up and down the lawn to the point of flattening it in some areas and the bird remained on the nest without feeling threatened. Pruning the purple Clematis was put on hold to allow peace and harmony to prevail and more leaves to grow, increasing protection for the nest.

There were some funny moments during the 2 weeks incubation of the eggs when the female spent long periods in the nest. Whenever I passed by, I pretended not to see her. One day, I found her sitting with her tail feathers pointing to the center of the gazebo and her head lifted upwards towards the vine with what can only be described as a look of indignation.

Really, I thought as I picked up a rake and moved away. I’ve got to stop thinking about this bird so much. If I step out of line she will let me know. Such was her laser-sharp focus on the eggs. Once, she chased away a bird that came too close to the nest with loud shrieks and flying feathers; then she quickly returned to the eggs as if nothing happened.

The robin’s actions to protect her eggs were appropriate. She acted in the moment and moved on. I, on the other hand was over-thinking everything. We were essentially a bird incubating her eggs and a woman working in her busy spring garden. Both in the same space for different reasons and with different needs. I realized my flurry of thoughts regarding what to do and how to behave around the bird was based on my need to do right for her with less focus on my needs. Then one day, she and her family flew away.

Each time I passed the empty nest, I thought about the robin and her four hatchlings which had now become a sweet memory. Her attention in every aspect of their care resonated with me.

She showed me she could be strong and fearless when it was needed; yet patient and selfless at other times. She proved she knew how to protect what was most important to her, even if a few feathers got ruffled in the process.

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