17 July 2010

give me something gentle / make it sentimental {or the robins' nest, Part III}

{This is Part III of a story about the robins who have built their nest on my balcony.  I'm sure you can pick up what's going on—just use those context clues skills that got you through so many standardized reading tests. But I'd also recommend reading Part I and Part II; it'll make the story so much easier to follow, I promise.  And I'm not just saying that so that you'll stay longer on my blog.  I really do want you to have a good story experience.  Really.  Now click.  And read.}


By the time I wrote a poem about the bird nest that appeared on my porch light, I had clearly absorbed several lessons from the robins and their nest: times of emptiness can quickly become times of fullness, for one.

Take time to stand in the sun and wonder at the richness around you
—that's another one.

Both of those sound like lessons that could be made into framed art, optimistic reminders of the enduring hopefulness of life, perhaps expressed in mosaic or line art featuring flowers and mountain meadows.

They'd be the kind of pieces sold at farmers' markets and craft fairs, a snippet of Americana that causes people in big cities and small towns alike to pause and wish they felt less compelled to check their email 24 times a day. To wish they could more consistently and truthfully be okay with turning off the to-do list part of their brain that’s run by a lizard: darting here, darting there, eyes darting to the next task to do do do.

Now, just a couple of weeks after writing that poem, I’m having thoughts that are less craft fair appropriate.

They are: Shut up. Stop flying in front of my face. You’re ugly. Can you chirp in a pitch that isn’t a scream? I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you have a bit of worm stuck in your beak.

Who has such bitter thoughts towards robins, of all creatures? Skunks, maybe, or raccoons, I could understand, but robins—they lay Tiffany blue eggs, and every spring, seeing the first robin makes me want to wear a flowery skirt, even if there’s still snow on the ground. Robins are a cause for celebration, not targets of my darkest thoughts because I can’t control their chirping.

But isn’t that the way life sometimes is? Something new lands in your daily life, and suddenly, you’re writing poems about watering cans and being full to overflowing.

Then the novelty wears off, and what was once energizing becomes a normal grate on you, even though you don't want it to. It becomes this accepted part of your life, and you can become blasé about it, take it for granted, treat it badly.

Tell the robins to shut up when all they want to do is sing to and protect their Tiffany blue eggs.

I wanted these birds to come. I wanted to love nature, right here on my doorstep—or actually, on my porch light. I wanted—I still want—more watering can moments.

But I also want to sit on my balcony without feeling that I’m going to be in a modern-day take on Hitchcock’s The Birds. I’ve gotten a very up-close look at the sharp beak of the robin, and let me tell you, you don’t want that thing anywhere near your eyes.

The stand-off between the robins and me is, I’ve decided, an example of expectations not matching reality—and how you can veer off the path into a swamp when you start to demand too much of your expectations.


{Wow, doesn't it seem like I just opened up a whole new topic?  The whole expectations vs. reality thing?  I'm so not writing about a bird feeder anymore, and that's what I enjoy so much about writing.  The surprises you find yourself stumbling upon.  The turns your writing can take.  I thought I wanted to vent about those dang birds, but those dang birds have led me here, to this twist of a statement about expectations and reality.

And yes, I'm going to end there for now.  If you have any deep, revelatory thoughts about this, you should let me know; I'm still sorting it out in my own head.}


  1. In the spirit of full blogland disclosure, I haven't read Pts. I and II, however, I realize after reading PT. III that I tend to go from Phase I of trying to slow down and experience fill-in-the-blank to irritation and annoyance. Maybe my dark side is a little darker than I realize.

  2. That is precisely what I learned from my robins' nest experience, Jill! My dark side and its shadows threaten me more than I realize...! However, the robins' eggs have hatched now, so I'm back in that wonder spot of marveling at nature :)



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