I’m sitting at the kitchen table talking with my daughter about past, present, future — one or all of those mixed in together; it’s late adolescent talk; the future hovers around us all the time, all day long — when I see a robin swoop up to our porch beam, its beak full of limp weed.
For the first time in the half dozen years we’ve lived here, robins are building a nest a few feet from our kitchen door.
In our other house, robins crafted fat nests in our sugarhouse and under our balcony. We witnessed baby beak feedings and collected blue ragged shells. Twice, a hawk ate fledglings — the course of nature, but sorrowful.
Rain has fallen all day. There’s an underlying promise of deepening green with the rain, but the hours have been cheerless and cold, filled not with any bad news but the accrual of petty things that drag at all our lives.
A robin stands on the porch railing, eyeing us through the glass door. Its mate flies in quickly, busy busy in the nest. Time is of the essence in bird movement. The robins are a little story come to stay with us for a short while.
Build and thrive, I think. Thrive.
“I was convinced that birds were kinds of souls. Not the souls of people but of previous birds whose mystery and beauty were so necessary on earth that God would not allow them to be anything in their second life but birds again.”
— Howard Norman
Oh sure, the May sunlight, the way the steady breeze tosses the growing grass all day, tugging new leaves open — the robins and sparrows chittering and nesting, singing as they fatten their nests, get their bird family going — even the woodchuck grazing beneath the apple tree, feasting on violets and fattening its sleek being — all beloved, all dear — but really, it’s the tree blossoms, the spring beauties, the dutchmen’s breeches, the Johny jump-ups scattered in whatever way and whatever place they need to emerge. What a world this is, our Vermont May season. Flowers.
Here’s a poem from David Budbill.
“The First Green of Spring”
Out walking in the swamp picking cowslip, marsh marigold,
this sweet first green of spring. Now sautéed in a pan melting
to a deeper green than ever they were alive, this green, this life,
harbinger of things to come. Now we sit at the table munching
on this message from the dawn which says we and the world
are alive again today, and this is the world’s birthday. And
even though we know we are growing old, we are dying, we
will never be young again, we also know we’re still right here
now, today, and, my oh my! don’t these greens taste good.
A single cardinal sits in the bird feeder on the wooden pole listing in the old woman’s yard. I pass this way often, where she sits on the glassed-in porch with her friends, a colored paper turkey pressed decoratively against one window.
Her boots have trampled down the snow around the feeder. My eyes search for a fallen crimson feather, but there’s nothing — just a flap of the bird’s wings, and then the bird’s gone.
Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.