I wish I looked and felt as bright-eyed and cheerful as this robin I found practically at my feet this morning. I'd stepped out onto the deck to check on the river and allow Moon-the-dog to make her usual investigation of the cedars over by the board fence, when the bird flew down from a nearby box elder and landed no more than three feet away. After giving me a moment's close scrutiny—Does he look the sort who'd relish robins-on-toast for breakfast?—the bird apparently decided I passed inspection…and in the usual robin fashion, tilted and dashed forward even closer, stopping about a foot from the rock upon which I stood.
I switched on the autofocus, held the camera at knee-level, and pushed the shutter. The friendly robin didn't flinch.
Robins are the personification of spring, a harbinger of the season itself. Their sudden en masse arrival on local lawns in late-February or early-March is newsworthy—a message of hope and changing times to be related to neighbors you meet at the mailbox, the cashier at the corner market, or the old gent down at feed-and-seed store. And such info will doubtless become the morning's premiere conversation topic among the breakfast bunch down at the local café.
Even non-birder types incapable of naming a half-dozen common backyard species can usually manage to recognize a robin. They know what the robin's annual return implies, too—though you, being privy to such secrets, know that for many robins, their overwintering destination was often no farther away than the nearest woodland thicket. No matter—the facts and folklore don't have to match. Besides, you're as glad as they are to see robins on the lawn again…even if they've been hiding quite nearby these past months.
As winter turns to spring, robins sing in the season. How many mornings in March and April have I stood in the pre-dawn darkness and listened to a robin belting out his ebullient melody from some nearby treetop? It may not be the most complicated tune in the bird world, but it's catchy and swinging, filled with the bright green joy of spring, and the robin sings loud and clear with the lusty verve of his lark heritage.
These past few days have been cold and often cloudy. Nothing out of the ordinary; just spring doing its usual seasonal two-step. But I've had enough. I'm weary of gray skies and heavy jackets. The grass is green…but not much else. I want to look through the woods on the islands and see that fine green "mist" among the skeletal limbs and intertwined branches that tells me things are beginning to leaf out. I want to amble a forest hillside and search for wildflowers. I'd like to plant a few bulbs in the garden. Or sit on the bench beside the river and warm my bones in the sun. My back and knee still ache.
I want to stand by the cottage pool, cast my fly, and again feel the sudden electric weight of a smallmouth bass on the end of my line.
Yes…I know—all this will come in time. Maybe that's why this morning's robin came so near…to reassure me that all I have to do is wait.