Waiting with the Robins

Mar 13, 2017

March did not start with a roar this year; it came in more like a wet dog than a lion. I was born in March, so I’ve always been a defender of the month that most New Englanders despise. It is, after all, a gloomy, raw, merciless month. Wind, rain, sometimes snow and frost, pummel the soggy earth while we anxiously flip over another day, panting towards the elusive Spring, the vernal equinox when daylight squares with the darkness.

“What spring?” the Cape Codder snarls. And indeed, as I write this, snow covers the ground.

The first time I ever laid eyes on Cape Cod, it was March. I admit, driving along Route 6 in the late 70’s, there was little to draw you in. Gray was all I remember seeing or thinking. Gray sky, houses, trees, ocean. Rain, then snow, then rain again. Or maybe it was sleet. It was the first time I heard the term “sea frost”. I thought that was beautiful – sea frost – enough to make a drunken poet pack up her VW bus and peacock feathers and head towards the sea. You had to be courageous and crazy both to live here in the winter back then. But spring was coming – wasn’t it?

I landed in April, early April, not understanding that the cold Atlantic kept Cape Cod at least ten degrees colder than the inland in the spring, like a wet blanket slapping against the stubby pines, the wind slipping through your walls and your skin like brain freeze.

We all drank a lot. But you got so you noticed the little things; the way the wind smelled when it shifted and came up from the south, the pungency of the melting marsh, the salt air slightly sweeter. Then the peeper frogs, at first just s few then a full choir as the days stretched out and the sun lingered over the bay at sunset. Ospreys circled. And the smell of wood smoke at night and oyster shells thawing out in the sun – these things you noticed because you had something like hope or you would die. Some people did. A painter that lived downstairs from me hung himself. Another neighbor got drunk playing cards on a boat and fell overboard during a brawl. His body was found washed up on the beach in the morning. It was a shame but not a surprise.

I read recently that the height of the suicide season is March, not the holidays like most people think. It made sense to me. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, it says in Proverbs. Like terminally ill.

My parents named me Robin because a robin, at least up north, is the first sign of spring. But not really. The truth is they might head south if they run out of food, but most robins tough it out, staying out of sight, staying warm and mostly quiet. Just like people. It’s funny to watch the hysteria when the temperature bumps sixty degrees. Tee shirts are yanked from plastic bags in the closet, Christmas Tree shop is gridlocked with shopping carts stuffed with clay pots, seed starter kits and spades. And the robins start to swarm the lawns and low branches of trees. They also start to sing.

I guess it’s this bipolar side of March that draws me. Life defying death – or maybe just showing up like it said it would, like it does every year, but we are just getting used to the dark, to staying quiet like the robins and sleeping a lot.

Yesterday at work I heard a cry, then a wail and turned to see an elderly woman collapsing into another woman’s arms. Her husband was dying. It was likely not the first cry of loss she would bear. That kind of cry is soulish, a tearing of the heart; it bleeds and doesn’t stop for a long time. I took a deep breath and turned back to my work, then heard the faint melody of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” coming in through the overhead speakers, the same speakers that call for codes, or security, or stat-someone or something all day long. I looked up and smiled, then heard a few Awwww’s and soft laughter from coworkers nearby. A baby had just been born. Just a few walls past the dying husband, life let out its first holler. “I’m here! And it’s so stinking bright!!!”

Ebb and flow. It’s not always as neat and predictable as we’d like. My daffodils, probably 100 of them, have pushed about 6 inches through the ground. Now they are covered in snow, the frozen earth squeezing the frail life out of them. But they’re tough, like robins. They know March. And they know spring will come.

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;  and perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5 NKJV

I guess that’s one thing that drew me to Jesus. Real Christians are gutsy. They know that real life comes through dying first. They know love never fails and sometimes they are gutsy enough to walk on water, crazy enough to try.

Hope never disappoints even when it makes us wait and wait. The Maker of all things can bring life with just one breath, and with one word flood the darkness with light. March has nothing on Him. One day the snow will melt, the daffodils will shake off the frost and the robins will sing. And the crazy old poet who was born in March will sing along, will sing praise to the One who brings new life.