The robins are back – by Florence Niven

The robins are back. They’ve built a spectacularly messy nest on top of the light by our front door, obscuring the warm glow of our shaker-style lantern with long tendrils of garden debris – once the protective layer around last year’s perennials, now a tattered veil.

Our feathered friends are not happy with us. They flap their wings in alarm when we venture outside, scold us with loud staccato chirps, ‘Step away! Step away!’ Even on our own front step we’re reminded of boundaries. Respecting the rules of social distancing, we choose an alternate exit. Finding, as we’ve had to during this pandemic, different ways of doing things.

It’s interesting that this time of global isolation began during Lent, the season Christians traditionally find themselves contemplating a metaphorical wilderness. Waiting for the last exhausting exclamations of winter to subside. Watching for the many gifts of rebirth and renewal spring has to offer. Except this year, the celebration has been delayed. The light obscured by a tattered veil. We must be patient. Mindful.

We stay home for the well being of our communities, especially those most vulnerable, and pray our politicians make wise decisions on our behalf. We stay home for the nurses and doctors so they can better manage the overwhelming task before them. We stay home for the essential workers making sure our cities, towns and villages function during and after this crisis.

Adapting to our new normal, we reach out to one another through the wonders of technology – frequent phone calls, virtual chats. We hold office meetings from the safety of home quarantine. Seek online educational assistance for children – and parents trying to teach. Support food banks and Red Cross workers with paperless e-transfers and fervent prayers.

We stream yoga, art and music classes to move and be moved. We hold family game nights, inviting cross-country participation, to remind us how it feels to laugh, to be with one another.

In doing so we pick up the ties broken by the virus and weave them into new connections. Trusting, anticipating, knowing, the restrictive mandates will eventually be lifted. Through it all we stand firm in our belief that we are not alone. We live in God’s world. We seek out signs of hope in the wakening gardens and morning birdcalls. The unfurling of tender leaves, the burst of magnolia and cherry blossoms.

In time we will ease back into our communities and social groups. Cautiously, optimistically, picking up the natural rhythms of our lives. We can never go back, of course; our paths are forever changed. But we can move forward having learned from this experience, grown from this challenge. We will mourn our losses. Laud our heroes. Be stronger for having endured.

The robins are back. There’s hope. The light is partially obscured just now, but make no mistake. It’s still there.

–  Florence Niven