Over a span of 3 months, an ordinary robin taught me more about the importance of caregiving and dealing with loss than any single book I’ve ever read.
Love, Sacrifice & Self-Care
In late May, a mother robin decided to build her nest right outside of my bedroom, atop the porch pillar.
Frankly, I thought it was an odd place to have babies, given how often my husband, our dog and I were on the porch or in the bedroom. Regardless, for nearly 2 weeks straight she sat on that nest. A male robin came by frequently to deliver berries, which I saw her carefully tuck behind the nest those that she did not immediately eat. Innately, she knew that her focus must remain on her role as caregiver of those eggs. She was planning ahead to care for herself when she could not leave to gather food. How brilliant!
Lesson #1 – Plan ahead and tuck away a few resources to care for ourselves (treats, an inspirational book, a nap…etc.) which may not be so readily available to us as we look to days ahead and know our caregiving tasks will be in higher demand.
By mid-June, her babies were born and soon became ferociously hungry. Back and forth she went, without rest, feeding them. I watched as she sacrificed day and night. And I also watched as she so lovingly doled out the food in equal proportions to her babies. They fought with one another by climbing over each other, flapping wings, reaching mouths and a few screams as if saying, “feed me NOW”. She would stop sometimes and gently pull back. Look at them. Then begin again to feed. Her patience could only come from a place of love. It made me think about the times I became frustrated and impatient when my parents wouldn’t do as I asked them and placed themselves at risk. The anger that would well up inside me sometimes caused me to lash out with harsh words.
Lesson #2 – Patience is not something you can force upon yourself. Patience is genuine and comes with greater ease when it comes from a heart filled with love. A love that sees the problem but persists because it is wise and understands.
Determination & Perserverence
The day of liberation came at the end of June, as the mother and her young took flight. I was surprised to see a cracked blue egg on the ground behind the post. In all the commotion of taking flight, this old egg that did not hatch somehow got dumped. As a mother, I wondered if she had been sad about the one that did not make it.
We waited several days, just to be sure they were truly gone, then removed the nest and burned it in our fire pit.
Two weeks later, as if by magic, I turned my attention from making the bed to see a robin building her nest in the EXACT same spot as the one we had just removed. NO WAY! It couldn’t be. But within 1 day, this robin had rebuilt her nest in the very same spot with an urgency that defied my understanding. And so, it began again, she sat and stored her berries. I swear it was the same bird. What are the odds that another bird comes along so quickly and builds a nest in the exact same spot…hidden from view? No, it had to be her and she had more to do here.
Lesson #3 – No matter the challenge, we can find it in ourselves to accomplish some of the most amazing feats. Strength, it seems, is not physical in nature. Strength is borne out of determination and perseverance. We have that…we do.
Loss, Love & A Job Well Done
What an amazing summer! Now late July, I got to see a second batch of robins born. This time the number of baby birds was only 2. That seemed odd, as the research I’d done on robins having 2 sets of baby birds back-to-back said that, though kinda rare, each time there would be 3-4 eggs. Hhhhmmm. Nonetheless, she went through the same process of tirelessly flitting about and bringing back food to feed her babies. As they got bigger, the chirping and singing got louder. Then, like before, they were gone.
I wasn’t sure if we should take the nest down or save her the trouble of rebuilding if she came back yet again. So, we waited. And again, we removed the nest. As my husband held it for me to see, we were in awe.
There, in the most perfectly constructed nest I’d ever seen, lay a perfect blue robin’s egg. This (as you can see in the picture below) is exactly what we saw. My heart lurched and tears formed in my eyes. This explained why there were only 2 babies. As I peered at it more closely, I could see how she lovingly created an inner circle of softer nesting, upon which the egg lay. It was not cracked. But she had patiently sat on it, along with the others, and when it did not hatch, went about taking care of the others who were in need of her. This was a job well done…a true labor of love.
Lesson #4 – Not everything will go the way we planned nor will the outcomes be what we hope for…but with love we can look at the experiences we live through and know that we did the best we could, and that it was a job well done. We can see that loss carries with it beauty, that comes from our loving actions and generous hearts.
An ordinary robin’s gift to me was a summer filled with observing caregiving like none I’d ever experienced. No longer do I doubt that the tasks that fill my day are without purpose and meaning. I do not view the simple, repetitive things anymore as having any less value as the really big ones. And, I see this blue egg and nest as a reminder that loss is a part of our daily life…and it can be seen as a reflection of our love, our caring and all that we give of ourselves to do the best we can. We can look at our caregiving experience as a gift to cherish and a reminder that love is ever present through it all.
Thank you, God, for this beautiful gift and the blessing of its lessons.