Flying free

Yesterday, the first day of spring, I had an unusual conversation with a robin.

Close up of a Robin perched on a branch

I could tell right away this was no ordinary robin.

It’s extraordinary for a robin to stop and give you the time of day, much less have a conversation with you in the middle of the day.  A robin has to really be distracted to want to talk to you.  And she was.

She was in a tree, and that was ordinary.  She occasionally fluttered her wings during our talk (as if testing that they still worked) and that was ordinary.  She hopped about on the branch, as if itching to go somewhere, and that was ordinary.

But she had two tiny suitcases, crammed and overflowing, on either side of her.  And so I knew: This was no ordinary robin.

She was struggling with all her bags and not making a bit of progress, and I could tell she could use a friend.

“What is all this stuff?” I asked.

“I’m preparing for my first flight,” she tweeted, her wings twitching in agitation.  “Or I’m trying to.”

“Your . . first flight?”

“I’m not like the other birds,” she explained.  “I didn’t leave my nest when I was a kid.  No ma’am, I stayed right there.  I wanted to be ready.”  She bobbed her head at the nest just beside her.

“But now I’m ready,” she continued, panting as she tugged one of her suitcases closer.  “Ready . . to . . fly.”

“That’s a lot of stuff,” I commented.

“I need a lot of stuff,” she explained.  “Do you know what’s out there? . .”  She shuddered.  Then she pointed her beak to her suitcases.  “Do you know what all I need?”

“No. .”

“My parachute,” she said with a little exasperation.  “How can anyone fly without a parachute?  And my snacks.  Don’t want to faint of low blood sugar in the middle of flight.  And my winter downy jacket in case it gets too cold, and my suntan lotion in case I fly too close to the sun.

“My photographs of my mom and dad, brothers and sisters, and my great-great-great aunt.  The string my mom found in the parking lot last month and the straw my brother brought in from that old barn by caterpillar pond.  I’ve got to bring those with me.  Don’t want anyone stealing my valuables.  And . .” she wiggled her foot.

There was a string tied around her foot.  Now that I noticed it, I saw the other side was tied with a neat bow around her nest, too.

“Can’t leave my house behind,” she said confidently.  “I’ve almost finished the mortgage payments on this nest.”  She looked down reluctantly.  “Nobody better move on this lot while I’m gone.  Do you know what this kind of prime branch costs nowadays?”

“Uh . .”

“More than a sky full of worms, I’ll tell you that,” she said.  And then she added, “Maybe I shouldn’t go.”

I hesitated.

“But . . aren’t you supposed to fly free?” I asked meekly.  “Isn’t that what birds usually do?”

She looked indignant, and robins have a very serious indignant look.

“Do you mean to say,” she asked, “you want me to be unprepared?”

“Well . . no,” I said.  “But how is that parachute going to help you, anyway, if it’s packed in your suitcase?”

“What do you mean?” she asked.  “I’ll have it with me.  That’s all that matters.

“But you can’t put it on mid-air,” I said gently.

“Oh yes I can,” she said.  “Of course I can.  I can fly.”

“But then . . why do you need the . .”

“The problem is,” she continued, ignoring me, “God only gave me two wings.  I don’t know why.  I really need two hands and two wings.  I need to carry all my things.  God must be very mean.  How does He expect me to survive like this?”


“. . I’ll just have to go back to my nest,” she said, edging back over the few inches she’d traveled.  “What a shame.  What a pity.  But it’s just not safe.  I’ll have to wait until next year.  Maybe then God will have given me hands so I can fly.  Or an airborne U-haul.  Now that would be helpful.”


“–You’ll have to excuse me, but I need a nap after all this thought of travel,” she interrupted.  “Not to mention, these suitcases are heavy.  I think I pulled a feather.

“Now, if you see any worms, send them my way.  Oh, and those little packages of travel peanuts.

“If you see my insurance agent wandering around, would you bring her here?  I think she made a right after the oak instead of a left . . With as close as I got this year to travel, you had better believe I need more flight insurance.”  She shuddered.  “I probably shouldn’t have even gone out on a limb without it.

“Oh, and one more thing,” she said, blinking up at me, “could you help me download a weather app?”

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”(Jesus, quoted in Matthew 6:25-26, ESV)