"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Kamikaze Robin

By on June 27, 2018 in Columnist with 0 Comments

Susan Blair

By Susan Blair

It is April. There is more daylight. The birds are busy.

War has broken out on the north side of our house. The combatants are a robin and his reflection.

He sees himself mirrored in the windows of our sitting room. Thanks to his elevated testosterone levels, he is looking for a mate and is intent on defending his territory, so he’s ready for action. He doesn’t realize this other is no other.

He’s been throwing himself at his reflection for hours. For days.

Poor robin! Why doesn’t he learn?

Time after time he bashes that bird. Bird after bird. It must hurt. The windows are streaked with the oil and dirt from his, presumably, tired little body.

Speaking of “tired,” we are tired of hearing the thump as he hits the glass yet again. In our empathy we feel some pain.

A robin — peaceful here, but capable of warring with a window. Photo by Bruce McCammon

I must do something to save this lunatic bird from himself — and us from him. I take a black marker and draw squiggles on sheets of white paper, then tape the paper to the window. I’m thinking this will eliminate his reflection so he’ll hold his fire. I listen, waiting.

There is a pause in the thumping, and I am encouraged: has he left, finally? Has he given up, gone elsewhere to deal with a real rival?

THWUMP. I hear it again. But it’s coming from the den, two rooms away. I investigate. Bloody hell! These windows are dirtier than the others and streaked with blood. War has been raging more viciously than I’d thought!

That does it. Obviously, I need to cover the windows on the outside. Today I have a rendezvous with a ladder, several old bedsheets and a roll of blue painter’s tape. My peace-keeping mission must produce a cease-fire.

I hate that so many birds and other animals are killed because of pollution, machines and construction. This robin doesn’t need to die. No bird-suicide on my watch. On my windows. No.

Thus armed, I head to the garage for the ladder. THWUMP. Are you kidding me? I look out the window — yep, this one’s streaked, too — and see the robin on a branch of the maple tree opposite. Does he see me, or another bird? I wave my arms and he flies away. For now.

With a sigh I realize I have three windows to cover, not two. This crazy fellow is aggressive, that’s for sure. Has a female robin been watching his show of strength? Is she impressed enough to become his mate?

I know this behavior is instinctive; survival of the fittest, and all that. I just hope this little dude survives his own behavior.

I lug the ladder around the house, set it up and test its stability. The five steps I must climb in order to reach the top of the window might as well be 500.

My dislike of heights kicks in even with this slight change in elevation, and I reflect that I could have waited for my husband to come home so I could make him do this.

I grit my teeth. I attach pieces of tape to the edge of a sheet and hang it up — or try to. The darned thing is heavy and doesn’t want to stay up. Another pair of hands would have come in, er, handy.

But I persist, and ultimately manage to cover this and the next two windows. I wonder what the neighbors will think of my decorating skills.

Inside once again I feel a bit claustrophobic in the “shuttered” den and sitting room, but the silence is delicious. Mentally I say to the robin: go, little fellow, eat worms and fly freely, and leave yourself alone.

This poor dumb cluck causes me to reflect on my own behavior.

I, too, have bashed my head against obstacles, real or imagined. I have hurtled through mental or emotional space, trying to beat back a situation — truly an exercise in futility.

(Why, for example, did I keep trying to “fix” the people in my office? They were operating in life the only way they knew how to operate, with no reference to me. What a waste of my time and energy — which would have been better applied toward “fixing” myself.)

Sometimes the best thing to do is to simply walk away. It was Albert Einstein who said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Take that, crazy robin. Take that, crazy me.

My thoughts also fly to Epictetus, the well-known Stoic of ancient Greece. He taught that in life there are a) those things within my power and under my control, and b) those things that are beyond it.

To understand which is which, and then accept it, makes for much less stress in life. Less bashing, fewer headaches. Living in harmony with nature. What’s not to like about that?

THWUMP. Either the wind was too strong or there wasn’t enough tape: the sheets have fallen down and the robin is battling himself again.

With a groan I contemplate papering the windows on the outside. That’s one option, one which sounds like more work. Another option is to wait out this barrage of robin hormones, recognizing that this is normal and natural.

I decide to let it go.

 

Susan Blair is a poet and writer whose chapbook, What Remains of a Life, was just published. As “Perri the Poetry Fairy” she reads poems to elementary school kids.

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