The Robin

By: Anne Maxwell

They’re not the most colorful birds, but they’ve always been one of my favorites. 

I’ll fully admit I embrace the sight of a bright red Cardinal, welcome the brilliant hue of a Blue Jay (even though they tend to be bullies to the Cardinals that are drawn to our feeder), and smile at the vibrant glow of an orange-winged Oriole.


But it’s the comparably muted Robin that makes me smile. 

Growing up in western Kansas you learn to look for spring. By St. Patrick’s Day in other parts of the state, wheat fields awaken from dormancy with a carpet of green and before March becomes a memory, daffodils pop their golden halo above ground. 

But further west, the landscape looks a bit starker a bit longer. As a child, I didn’t know spring so much from what bloomed forth, but for what my other senses could gather. I felt warm southern winds against my face instead of bracing my back against chilly northern gusts. My nose caught the sweet smell of soft, turned earth after rains, ready for spring planting. And my eyes tracked the flurry of busy Robins making nests and hunting worms. 

This was especially true in my Grandma Zohner’s yard. I spent a lot of time at that yellow two-story farmhouse the spring I was 5 while my mom substitute taught. On the days she had class and my dad took care of me, I’d end up at Grandma’s some of those afternoons after kindergarten. 

I’m sure the initial intention was that I would rest, but that was never quite the case. Even so, those were quiet afternoons. Grandma had suffered a stroke when I was a baby. She had the use of one side and still had her speech, but she moved slowly with the help of a cane. There weren’t a lot of activities she could easily participate in with a rambunctious granddaughter. 

I was always told to behave so I wouldn’t burden Grandma. So I tried my best to “be good” on those quiet afternoons. There was a box of familiar toys for entertainment and I’d help her make a simple snack before we’d settle back in the living room. She’d take out her book and I’d pick up my toys and quietly play. 

I can still hear the soft hum of the clock ticking on the wall as minutes passed. Slowly passed. At a certain point, I wouldn’t be able to sit still much longer and I would look out at the yard to see what might be happening outside. Sometimes a barn cat or two would lazily head to the porch for an afternoon snooze. If I was lucky, a fluffy rabbit would hop from its hiding place underneath the porch toward one of the outbuildings. 

But more often than not, on an early spring day, I would peer outside to see a Robin perched on a tree branch or birdbath ledge. Many times, they would hop down to look for a worm or scatter across the yard with a swatch of grass between their beak to add to a nest. 

Grandma would glance out the window as I watched and we’d talk about how plump some of them were getting and how the worm hunting must be going well. 

And then she’d say, “Spring must be here.”

A robin flew outside my window last week late one afternoon. Any other day, I probably would have been in a rush home from work, scurrying around to pick up one of my kids, or dashing to the store to get last-minute ingredients for supper. But not on that day. I stood at the window, welcomed the sight of the drab robin with its dazzling signal that brighter days were ahead. I thought of my Grandma and smiled, letting the memories rush over me. 

Time has slowed down. The world has slowed down. This “new normal” has its sacrifices and its difficulties, but it’s all part of helping one another. This new pace has much to teach us about how we live and how we approach the hours in our days. 

In the midst of all that has changed, we all can list things in our own lives that are postponed, moments that will not happen, and the others we hope can still be. And yet, in the middle of all this postponement and cancelation, spring is still right on time. 

And now, we have an unexpected blessing of time to fully appreciate its arrival. 

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