"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Homecoming Heartbreak

Left the cottage a bit before noon with all three dogs, leaving the Chap to serve as host to his Vestry, holding their annual Retreat there on the lake all afternoon.

After admiring my insanely blooming rose and perennial gardens, I settled on the porch to catch up my reading--a ton of magazines, newspapers, and a book arrived in the post during my time away from the Lodge.

About an hour ago, Jewel expressed a desire to go down into the yard. It was sunny, bright, and the rugosas looked amazing, so I went down the steps with her to do my own sniffing around. She trotted about and I inhaled roses, until....

we both heard the repeated shrieks of a robin coming from the side of the garage. And then I saw the robin leaping up and down on the garage roof, frantically flapping its wings and crying loudly.

Jewel and I raced to the fence. I climbed partly up the rails until I could spot the massive robin's nest at the electrical junction box--where our robins have laid and hatched and raised their young for many a year.

To my horror, I could also see the bottom two-thirds of an enormous Cooper's hawk, its talons gripping the thick electical cable running to the house.

I couldn't see its head, slightly out of my view. But I knew, beyond doubt, that clutched in the cruel beak was a bird--either the mother robin sitting her clutch of eggs, or the hatchlings (if there were any yet). Or possibly it was feasting on all of them.

I raced to the front of the house. By the time I arrived at the best vantage point, the hawk had flown. The nest was empty and still.

The missing robin's mate had moved to the birch tree, in view of the nest, and perched there, piteously and continuously shrieking.

It is a truly heartbreaking sound. I last heard it several years ago when a windstorm blew a robin's nest--with fledglings--off the lighting fixture in the garage eave to be smashed to bits on the concrete steps below.

Most years, all goes well, and our reliable couple raises two broods. Sometimes, though, misfortune strikes.

I keep reminding myself that nature's way can be painful. That raptors prey upon songbirds, they can't help themselves.

Only last week we'd noticed the robins flying in and out of the expansive, messy, several-years-old nest, high up in the corner of our garage. I'd planned to phone the utility company to remove the nest--they and I felt it should go. But when we saw the activity, proof that family-building was underway, we couldn't bear to take down an active nest.

Now that it's no longer active (shudder), I suppose I'll take the necessary step.

This tragedy made me realise how much I take those robins for granted. Yes, I mark their arrival late each winter or early in the spring in my nature journal. Yes, I watch them feed in the grass around the house and in the gardens. Yes, I've let them nest in a spot hazardous to my own dwelling.

But I never really cherished them as much as their showier friends--the orioles, hummingbirds, tanagers, goldfinches, purple finches, grosbeaks.

Knowing a robin is gone forever, confronted with the sad, solitary robin who suffered that devastating loss, I regret my cavalier attitude.

I've been weeping about this. Hard not to.

Just now, when the Chap rang me from the cottage (he'll be staying overnight), I told him what happened. He feels as badly about I do.

We've lost a friend.

The remaining friend is still out there, audibly grieving in the birch tree.

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