By Michael T. Smith
Ginny and I sat on the deck, like we do a lot, and watched the world flow by. A robin flew into the tree in the yard. It had a twig its mouth.
"Looks like they're building a nest." Ginny said.
"I think you're right." I watched the robin select a perfect spot and thread the branch into position. A second robin with a twig joined the first.
Throughout the next few days, we watched the mates work together to construct a resting place for their soon-to- be-laid eggs. The nest was completed. A few days later, momma bird settled into her new home. They two parents took turns warming the eggs, always aware of the needs of the other and their precious charge. Each knew the other needed nourishment and the eggs needed warmth. It was a perfect partnership.
Every hour or less, the two robins traded places keeping the eggs safe, while the other flew off in search of warmth. The rains fell. At night, the temperatures dropped below freezing, but the two robins, who chose a safe position for their nest, stuck by their eggs. They knew their duties. The wind blew; the tree rocked; and the robins held tight. The eggs would not fall on their watch.
A week or two later, Ginny and I watched as they carried worms to the newly hatched babies. Again, they took turns, sacrificing their own needs for the babies God blessed them with. We watched three little beaks rise above the rim of the nest, and reach for Mom or Dad, as they delivered their meals.
One morning I sat, drank my tea and read a book. The morning sun warmed me. The day was peaceful. No one stirred. I heard a bird chirp in front of me. I looked up. No bird was in sight. It chirped again.
"OK! I hear you, but where are you?"
I stood. The yard was empty. The chirping stopped. I gave the yard one more look, scratched my head, and sat to read. Out of the corner of my eye, I detected movement. One of the young robins hoped over my foot, chirped, and looked up at me. Little white baby feathers stuck out from the side of its face and head. It looked like a bad feather day for this one.
"Hey, little fella. Did you make the big leap?"
"Really?" I asked. "Is that all you have to say?"
I moved. Little robin hopped to the safety of a small bush by the fence.
"So that's where you've been hiding!"
He peeked out at me from behind the thorny branches.
I left him or her alone and went inside. Later, I went outside and there were two of the babies on the patio. Only one remained in the nest. It sat on the edge of the nest, chirped for his siblings, but they were gone. Mom and Dad followed their two coup-flying offspring around the yard. They no longer pushed worms between the baby's beaks. They put the worms beside them. The hungry young needed to learn how to satisfy their hunger, pick up the worms and feed themselves. In the nest, the last of the family sat and continued to chirp for its dinner. I watched it for another day. Momma and Daddy flew to a branch close to the nest with a tasty worm dangling from their beaks. The last baby chirped and watched its parent fly off with dinner.
"Chirp! My dinner?"
It sat at the edge of the nest and cried out for food, but Mom and Dad refused. It hopped around the edge of the nest, leaned forward, flapped its wings, chirped hesitated, and settled back in the nest. It cried for food, but none came. Momma and Poppa had worms. They dangled them in front of their baby. Momma flew off. Hunger took over. Baby jumped to the edge of the nest. Its fear was a smaller power than its hunger. It balanced, looked at the ground, spread its young wings and leaped toward momma on the ground. Nature taught it to flap and fly. Its heart raced as the ground gently came up to greet it. Momma rewarded its effort with the food it so badly wanted.
Robins, who mate for life, have many lessons to teach: a life devoted to their mate, commitment to family, and the ability to look at their children and say,
"Life has many worms. If you want yours, you need to fly.
You need to know when it is time to fly from the nest."