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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A bird in the bush

A robin has built a nest in the evergreen shrub immediately next to the back door. She (the female builds) has been flying in and out of the shrub, while he (the male protects) has been flying in and out of the blue spruce a few yards away. I know there's a nest because I finally looked closely into the shrub, and saw a baleful eye and a sharp beak not six inches from my nose. I withdrew at once, remembering last year's manic attacks on the bathroom window behind the shrub.

We haven't been in Maine as much as usual this spring, so the door has remained closed and the birds emboldened. Mama built and brooded and fed in peace, and Daddy had to fly at no rivals, no human unknowns, and no shadows in the glass like hawks, or nets, searching for lunch. Robins seem to tolerate humans for the most part. They often build their nests very near to our houses. Certainly, they love the worms and bugs in our lawns and in our gardens, and gladden us with those lovely early morning songs, often the very first of the pre-dawn.

But yet I was a little scared sticking my face into the shrub. No matter how domesticated or anthropomorphized, animals still remind us of how much we are different and how much we are the same. The scientist and writer Loren Eiseley said, "One does not meet oneself until one catches the reflection from an eye other than human." In this tiny drama of two robins and a man, I met not only myself but worlds of wonder. For me, a bird in the bush is worth infinitely more than any number of birds in the hand.

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