Birdsong, Mortality

Where the fields have opened up, robins flock in the trees, singing the melodies that always remind me of spring’s running water — icy cold and much welcomed, harbingers of green. These are the first flocks we’ve seen this year, and we’re doing what I’ve done with this daughter since she was a little one on my back — we’re searching out robins, these beloved spring birds.

Same activity, different backroad. We’ve moved towns and houses, and so tinged through all of this cusp-of-adolescence for this girl is both the headiness of new experiences threaded through with loss. Impermanence, I remind myself over and over, sometimes daily, is the ticket price for all of us, even these little palm-sized birdies, the fat earthworms they’re devouring, and the stones in the fields, gradually giving up their edges to the elements.

We stop for a moment and talk about the dirt road behind our boots, the shape of its crown in the middle. Birdsong, wind, running streams. The fields are so wide open here we glimpse a herd of deer at the distant crest, just a quicksilver moment as they rush across the ridge and vanish again.

My daughter, humoring me, hungry for her late dinner, asks me, Are you actually talking to those robins?

Oh, that thin scrim between mind, body, landscape….

The more a thing tends to be permanent, the more it tends to be lifeless.

— Alan Watts


Hardwick, Vermont

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