“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song”Maya Angelou
Spring may be the time when we focus on the green shoots of fresh life, when we throw ourselves into the nurture of small and delicate living things and watch them bloom into plants that will in turn offer us colour, food and pleasure long into the warm nights of summer and beyond. Especially now if we are lucky enough to have access to seeds, pots and water we can focus on the small and rewarding tasks that lie ahead, giving us a focus and joy amongst the uncertainly.
Spring is also the time that all the living creatures around us welcome the warmer days, the deepening hues of the blue skies and the abundance of food, spending their time nurturing small and delicate living things and watching them bloom into life.
In amongst all the clatter and clutter of trying to take positive strides in tidying up the garden, I discovered a small delicate nest nestled in amongst the rubbish and kindling of one of our sheds. My intent to sort that shed quickly (and for the rest of the year it seems) dismissed, I marvelled at the possibility and hope that these 5 small Robin eggs would hold.
Through careful monitoring, and using the high tech solution of an arm around the shed door once a day to take a photo, we’ve watched as the female Robin has sat and guarded her brood, her watchful gaze always seeking out the camera lens with such certainty that it unnerved me the first time I saw it. For two weeks she sat, and she cared for those small eggs, nurtured them and waited out the sudden frost.
In the meantime, we became experts on the nesting and hatching of Robins, fascinated (and a little obsessed) with this nature documentary unfurling on our doorstep. At the expected two weeks we zoomed in and found 5 hairless, blind tiny birds cuddled into each other awaiting the return of their parents with their food.
The male Robin had returned, and like a well oiled machine we watched them dance around the garden together all day, always just coming or just going, never together, never close enough but sometimes just enough that we could hear them singing to each other, a beautiful song of care and nurture as they tend to their young.
Tiny Robin chicks do not look like chicks, they are an altricial species (just like us humans) which means they are born without hair, but as their parents returned with a continuous supply of nice worms and insects – aided by our digging and developing of the garden we hope – they grew, each day looking a little more like a bird, and then more and more like a fledgling.
And with that, 4 weeks after we discovered the nest, and just 2 weeks since they hatched, our ‘Spring Watch’ photo found an empty nest, no longer the tight squeeze of 5 growing birds, but instead free to learn and explore.
Just to the back of the shed, atop a black box, the little tilt of the head, and curious gaze of a fledgling Robin, viewing me as if I’m both known, and new, something familiar and yet uncertain.
As we mourn the daily photos, and the structure it gave us through these first few weeks of lockdown, we were at least certain in the promise of what those tiny eggs would bring, the joy that flooded our lives as we watched as nature continued, as it will always do, amongst all the anxiety of our current lives. The small glance at the majestic beauty that nature is bringing, and will continue to, even amongst all the uncertainly around Covid-19..
We may be living our lives in smaller spaces, but perhaps the opportunity to focus on the detail, on the small moments when we stop and pause, perhaps that is the greatest gift that nature can offer us right now - a reminder that hope, and life, and joy, can be found even in the back of the old wood shed ( amongst the disused dog food bags and the year old kindling) even there, joy can be found.