Friday, July 25, 2014

Spying on the neighbours - Kathleen Gibson

A pair of Bushnell 7 X 15 X 35 binoculars hangs ready for quick use at our house - the better to spy on our avian neighbours. They don’t seem to mind the paparazzi, and appear oblivious to our inspection. (Then again, perhaps they’re watching us.)

One year a robin pair built their nest in the maple tree outside our living room window. I peered in often as the birds raised their three nestlings. 

In his role as fly-in provider, the male robin regularly coaxed his mate up to the edge of the nest in order to move closer and feed the chicks. His mate supervised - seemingly glad for the break.

The nest, an almost weightless, neatly swirled circle of grasses, rested in a crotch of bark two limbs up, about ten feet off the ground. I worried plenty about it during the series of severe storms that battered our area. An umbrella of leaves offers little protection, I thought.

During the worst of those storms, one that even threatened human life, I grabbed the binoculars and sat down in front of the window - to add a little watching to my worrying. There sat Mrs. Robin, stone-still, wings spread wide over her offspring. Drenched to her pinfeathers, her beak ran water-droplets like a leaky faucet. But when the wind lifted the nest almost at a right angle to the tree, she clung tight.

Every so often, the gale seemed to pause for an intake of breath before its next big gust. In those moments, in darted the sodden male, bearing take-out. To my astonishment, he first fed his mate. She ate, then lifted herself off the nest just high enough for the chicks to thrust their gaping mouths out from under her wings.

The deluge that accompanied that storm chased over a hundred people from homes nearby. Many of those homes were irreparably damaged, and later condemned. Yet the small circle of grasses in the maple outside our window remained intact, and so did the little family.
I'll never forget their song after the storm subsided -- clear and sweet, it soared to me, even through the glass.
These are difficult times to keep a home together. Marriages have never before collapsed at the present rate. Battered by sundry storms, partners flee commitment, sacrificing future joy for present relief or passing pleasures. I grieve the brittle spirits, the inevitable from-bad-to-worse years, the wounds festering in the bewildered hearts of children.

My parents, 90 and 95, celebrated their sixty-second anniversary last week. They remind me of the robins after that storm. Bedraggled, weather-beaten and weary. They’ve held hard to Jesus, fought storms together and survived formidable enemy attacks. They even survived raising me. But they have survived, and so have their values, reflected in each of their children's lives.
If I’ve learned anything from the Robin family, it’s this prayer, "Oh, Lord, give us robin-spirits. Our neighbours are watching."


From the archives of Sunny Side Up.

Sunny Side Up has been published weekly since 2001, and runs in various Western newspapers. 

Find author, columnist and broadcaster Kathleen Gibson on the web at


Peter Black said...

Kathleen, thank you for sharing this delightful, poignant story.
I reckon that the example of the Mom and Pop Robins' steadfast care and tenacious commitment, followed by their sweet song after the storm, speaks instructively to our human need to "go and do likewise." ~~+~~

Kathleen Gibson said...

Thank you, Peter. Indeed it does. Blessings on the beloved nests in your family.

Popular Posts