God Sent a Robin

A robin chirped at me this morning before I got out of bed, and what a lot he had to say!

First, he reminded me of his great-great grandfather, who had spent a whole spring and summer several years ago just bringing a message of love and care from my Father. In those days, every morning I woke to that bird’s song, and every evening as I chopped vegetables or washed dishes, I got used to his company just outside my window.

Not that I ever saw him–he hid somewhere in the trees, or perhaps perched on the roof above my head. I would leave my cooking and wander outside looking for him, because at the time I didn’t know what species the voice belonged to.

Pippin our naturalist had left a set of bird call tapes in her bedroom when she went away to college, and I listened to the two hours’ worth of sample bird songs, but didn’t hear My Bird. When she came home one weekend she heard him and said, “Oh, that’s a robin!” Today I can easily find this page online that might have answered my question then. Or this book with recorded bird calls, given to us by the same daughter more recently.

My 2010 Robin brought his greeting thus: “cheerily cheer-up cheerio.” At least, that’s how the birders describe it. I got the meaning rather than the sound, and it was clear enough.

And he said, “Attend!”, confirming my prayer of yesterday’s blog. I thought back to our first years of homeschooling and a unit study the children and I did. It was structured around character qualities, beginning with those most essential for learning. The first was Attentiveness, and the nature/science aspect of the unit was birds, because one needs to focus and concentrate one’s mind if one wants to notice birds in the first place.

We set up a tray feeder right outside our big window next to the dining table, and every day the towhees, finches and jays would visit and fascinate us. Nothing like that was possible to replicate when we moved to our present house, and any kind of bird feeder only made it easier for the cats to make a meal of any creature in feathers.

“Attend!” is a word we often hear in church, because even there we forget What is Happening and Who is Present. Of course the reverential tuning and turning of our hearts and minds is a key to the spiritual life, and it’s a habit I could despair of ever learning.

This morning I was almost afraid to get out of bed, for fear of getting swept up in the hurricane of decisions and dilemmas about what to focus on, what to do first. Should I phone my lonely friend a tenth time, hoping to get through and make a lunch date? If I don’t, what will I do with these quarts of soup I just made? Am I getting another sore throat? Perhaps I need to run downstairs and gargle first thing. Should I go to Matins, or the gym, or stay home and vacuum?

I did the only thing I could be sure of, and began my prayers before putting my feet on the floor.

O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth,
Who art everywhere present and fillest all things,
Treasury of blessing, and giver of Life,
Come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity,
And save our souls,
O Good One.

At a time like this, free-form prayers are of little use. Besides, who could improve on the above? It’s a wonderful beginning for what we want to be A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, to use the evocative title of a book I’ve never read.

I was still there when Robin started in. One thing I heard was this discussion he had with another of God’s creatures:

“Overheard in an Orchard” by Elizabeth Cheney

Said the robin to the sparrow,
“I would really like to know
Why those anxious human beings
rush around and worry so.”

Said the sparrow to the robin,
“Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
such as cares for you and me.”

8 thoughts on “God Sent a Robin

  1. As I was walking home form the post office this afternoon I came very close to a robin. I wondered how close he'd allow me to get before he flew away. He was quite intent on getting his food and I guess he did not perceive me as a threat.

    Thanks for visiting my blog and letting me know about the spam comment. I trashed it!


  2. We should see the return of the first robin here about mid March. I always get excited because they usually bring the milder weather with them. I like what you said about starting your day with prayer. The poem is lovely too! I've heard it before, but I don't remember where…



  3. I too am in the situation where to build a bird table would be to provide the local cats (of which I contribute two) with a buffet. I do hang seed-baskets in my apple tree and have had some cute visitors this winter.


  4. Margaret, maybe I need some seed-baskets, whatever those are…when we hung feeders from the arbor some of the seed fell on the ground, where the birds also worked over it and were easy prey–in spite of bells on the cat's collar!


  5. The robin is timely for me…I am preparing to teach “The Secret Garden,” a book which contains a robin as a key character; the robin is the first “person” who causes Mary Lennox, the main protagonist, to care about someone/thing other than herself, and soon leads her to the Secret Garden where she grows in faith and knowledge.

    And…our mutual friend, DM, has a love of birds akin to yours…I try to notice the details you both do, and feel inadequate and envious…in a good way… because you both have shown and do show me that I can be more appreciative and attentive of the goodness beauty of our world…


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