A couple of weeks ago, while lolling in bed on a late morning with our dog Sally, I heard a soft, hollow plonking sound. Looking out the window, I saw a robin standing on a tin pipe that attaches to the roof’s gutter. The pipe is under the eaves, and drains the water from the gutters off and down to the side of the house. The bird’s orange breast was bright in the shade of the eave.
Sally paid it no mind. Birds aren’t really her thing. She’s a rat terrier, so rats are supposed to be her thing, but I don’t think she would pay much attention to a rat. Chipmunks occasionally grab her attention but it is bugs that drive her into a frenzy. If there’s a flying bug in the bedroom at night before going to sleep, she cannot be calmed until the bug is removed.
Watching the robin, I realized I had seen it or its mate or a member of its family, sitting there a few days before. Maybe more than once. You know how when you see something clearly, really notice it, you then realize you’ve seen it before?
The bird hopped along the pipe away from the eave until only its tail feathers remained in view. From the movement of its back end it was clear the bird was busy with something.
A nest, I thought, I bet there’s a nest just out of view, where the pipe meets the side of the house, under the eaves, a place of protection where they could start a family.
It’s said that spying a robin is good luck, they’re a symbol of happiness or freedom, of new adventures.
Scientists found that birds are singing more softly at this time, as the world has been quieted by the covid shutown. Imagine how loud they must have gotten, just to be heard over the airplanes and the oil wells and all of the people everywhere endlessly talking.
I can’t even hear myself, the Robin would sigh at the end of a long day of singing that felt more like screaming, and flying that felt more like battle.
Birds and crocodiles are the only remaining dinosaurs. Birds are species miniraptora which have adapted over millions and millions of years, their wings originally were legs and it is believed that becoming flying creatures enabled them to survive when nearly all other dinosaur life perished.
It’s understandable, then, that throughout human civilization we have worshipped them, turning them into gods or messengers of the gods. The Aztecs and Egyptians; Greek and Hindu mythology all have revered birds or looked to birds for answers. Think of the totem poles of the tribes of the Pacific Northwest. The Old Testament warns of partridges and ravens, the New Testament has its dove.
Birds are the animals closest to the heavens, capable of mimicking many other animals, they symbolize magic. Through the mystery of migration, they have the ability to survive seasonal change—disappearing for months at a time until conditions are right for them to return. But it is their ability to fly that captivates us.
When did I stop having flying dreams? Are flying dreams for the young? When we dream of leaving the nest, breaking free, entering the wider world. I had a flying dream last year, the first in a very long time and when I woke up I was so happy to have experienced that delicious surprising feeling, that my body could lift and lift and lift and then move through the skies, powerful yet light. And then I was sad when I realized I hadn’t had that sensation for a long time. No matter our age, we all hunger for freedom, look at all the millions of people in the streets right now.
The day Bobby and I got married it rained. We had planned our wedding to take place in a beautiful old apple orchard on friends’ property near us. We imagined guests entering the orchard, taking their seats between the rows of trees, we would walk down the aisle of trees. Watching the weather obsessively for weeks, the forecast began to change, the little sunshine icon started to have little clouds over it. Then the sunny icon disappeared altogether, replaced by the fluffy cloud icon. Soon the fluffy cloud icon had little blue lines coming out of its bottom. And our dream of the orchard wedding became a dream of a wedding under a tent. We had the tent rented already for the reception; we’d just have to do the ceremony and beneath it, too.
As often happens with significant days—like weddings, and opening nights—we were lucky and everyone agreed that having the ceremony beneath the tent made it more intimate than it would have been out in the orchard.
The ceremony was filled with magic and love. It wasn’t a torrential rain but you could hear the drops falling on the tent during our vows. After the ceremony, Bobby and I walked up the aisle and out of the tent, the rain had stopped and as all of the wedding party and then the guests began to pour out from the tent, someone said, “Look!” And we all looked up. A beautiful white heron appeared, swooping low over the gathering crowd. We cheered, and I cried, even more than I had during the ceremony, knowing we had been doubly blessed.