The Robin’s Feast

Robins on the Back Hill,
February, 2017

I witnessed a flock of Robins foraging in the leaf litter on my back hill today. I’d been wondering about robins since yesterday, how it was the brown/orange female robin flitting around in my front garden looked so well fed.

Peter Guren, the creator of the comic strip, Ask Shagg, answered my question, in part. In response to a reader’s inquiry about why robins don’t eat from a bird feeder during winter, he replied, “ Robins that don’t migrate will hang around and eat fruit in the winter.” That made sense; a few red berries, blue berries, still tethered to my holly and juniper shrubs, though a little spongy, lay in wait.

I write this post at my kitchen table with a sweeping view of the back hill. The out door thermometer reads 58 degrees, a February thaw. I cannot say what drew my attention up the back hill, beyond the erosion/planter inserts filled with green pachysandra, to the bank of exposed leaves. The leaves were moving—flitting, fleeting, fluttering, leaping, turning. It was as if I were witnessing a live video on camera. But what was propelling all that action?

I stood at the patio door to focus up the thirty yards where the scene was playing out. It took a sustained and conscious effort to zoom onto what seemed surreal, my imagination at play, when I caught sight of the red/orange breast of one, two, three, ten, twenty or more robins in a feeding frenzy. The sight of so many in the common search for food, their coordinated dance, the sense of their innate radar— food for nourishment beneath the melting of new snow, the moist leaves abundant with earthworms, beetles, spiders, and more.

My anxious gut fluttered with gratitude, a release of pleasure, uncoiling with delight, this 30th day of Trump’s presidency,  The robins had not flown south; they had stayed close to home, this homestead surrounded by oaks and American Beeches, the branched lily tree in the front garden which nests 3 to 4 chicks each spring.

Since President Trump’s 77-minute press conference, his rant of free association, my mind craved grounding, a way to sort and sift what I had heard, a way to make sense of what made no sense. The birds offered a lesson.

I am grateful to be reminded of what lies beneath the surface, to refocus, to shift attention from the chaos of breaking news to the quiet rhythms of nature, music, reading, reflective writing, and once again, list making. My friend, Rosemary, offered an interesting response to my last post. “I think of lists as containment, ways to hold in place (if briefly) what can otherwise roam wild in our minds.”

The flurry on this hill—at first sight—seemed wild, out of control. Brown, matted down, leaves were being propelled by an invisible force. Orange/red rounded bursts, grey wing- shaped pulsations, caused me to pause and focus more intently until the full sweep of what was occurring came into view. I am grateful for the lesson.

14 thoughts on “The Robin’s Feast

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Beth, lovely to receive your comment first thing this morning! I’m pleased the post resonated with you.

  1. Hy Kempler

    so nice how closely you observe nature. it is a world full of its own dramas and so basic, concerned with survival. it’s a good distraction these days. this morning an immature was parading around the pool probably lost. i didn’t see what happened to it. sheila will soon give me an update.

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Hy, I’m left wondering what “immature” being, likely lost, was parading around your pool this morning! Bird? Alligator? Rabbit? Can’t wait for the update!!

  2. Patricia Rogers

    Faye…yes nice to find some solace in those fluttering Robins! And love Rosemary’s post regarding lists as containment…perfect.
    In terms of our president…my husband asked me at lunch today if i’d ever known a head of state to pis off the head of Sweden??? i personally can’t remember a one.
    enjoy these spring days.

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Pat, yes, there is so much that is unusual about this president…the pattern is way too apparent. I am hoping for far less shock and awe as we continue down this path.

  3. Beverly Bader

    Thank you for focusing on the robins’ search for food, and thereby comfort, in the cold month of February. Focusing our mind on magical and mysterious acts of nature bring us peace, so essential
    during this chaotic presidential time! I began reading Thoreau again, to ground my dreams for a continued solid democracy and for better times to come for our country!

    1. fayewriter Post author

      I so appreciate your comment, Bev, and thank you for reminding me of Thoreau, to whom I am a frequent visitor. I embrace his pace and the wisdom of reflection as I saunter in nature.

  4. sheila kempler

    I heard a wonderful talk about birds by Dr. John Mazloff, author of “Subirdia”Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins Woodpeckers and other wildlife and how they adapt to their changing habitats, some remaining in cities, some moving on but demonstrating an amazing ability to adapt to change and/or to move to a new, more
    suitable space. Like humans, some birds love big cites and others move to quiet spaces with many trees.

    A bird’s brain s brainy. Today I saw an immature Blue heron sitting by the pool and sunning. i think she was lost. Sheila

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Sheila, how intriguing, the fact that birds are brainy and have choices of urban, rural and suburban locations. You have peaked my curiosity about Mazloff’s book.His lecture must have been amazing! Thanks for sharing. I love that the immature Blue Heron paid you and Hy a visit. A good omen, I think.

  5. Rosemary Booth

    I like how the writer builds carefully to her point, how she links discovery of purpose in the robins’ frenzy with finding welcome perspective on the turmoil of everyday life–politics included.

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Rosemary, yes, “discovery of purpose” which I am ever evolving and shaping, as are most of us, as we live through this wild transition in our geo-political world. The frenzy is present today on the hillside but seems quieter— fewer pecking birds. Hopefully the same will be true in days to come in our frenzied world

  6. carol steinman

    Thanks for again reminding me to refocus on the beauty of nature and people around me and let go of the
    constant daily stress of trump declarations and expressions. While writing this I received a call from my sister telling me she has restarted PT to remove the knots all over her body as a result of her need to follow news concerning our new President. I must educate her about your blog.
    Sending hugs,

    1. fayewriter Post author

      Carol, I am trying to be mindful about the effect of too much focus on Trump and the reactivity of the press. Not easy, for sure. PT is interesting! The more mindful I am, the less anxious. I would enjoy having your sister as a subscriber! Thank you for passing my blog on.

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