By Dr. Tony Kireopoulos, Associate General Secretary
It’s finally a warm spring day. The bluest of skies is cloudless, flowers are bursting forth in every possible color, and a gentle breeze is causing the leaves of the trees to wave gingerly to the world around them. After so many gray days of cold and rain, it almost seems as if there is no coronavirus lurking in the air. Instead, it carries the promise of new life.
I am sitting in the sunroom of our house, surrounded by French windows that look out on this beautiful scene. In an armchair in the corner, this is where I usually drink my morning coffee, read the newspaper and work remotely. And today, it is where I am watching the action in the bird’s nest just outside the window to my right.
Several weeks ago, a robin started building a nest in the large bush on the other side of this window. I watched as she wove bits of grass and twigs (and even a scrap of paper!) together to build it in a forked branch. As the days continued, her baby bump became more and more visible. It was then that I noticed another bird – a thinner robin that could only be her male companion – brought additional material to continue the construction.
Not too long after they built the nest, I noticed that both birds were equally thin, and concluded that deep inside the nest there must have been some eggs. I had noticed a broken blue eggshell on the other side of the yard, which must have fallen from another nest, or fallen prey to a squirrel, so even though I couldn’t see inside “my” nest, I imagined it was now home to a small collection of eggs. Now the female mostly sat in the nest, incubating the eggs, while the male flew back and forth from who knows where, ostensibly to bring food to his mate or to check in on the birthing process.
Days passed, and before I knew it, both birds were flying back and forth, with tiny worms in their beaks that they seemed to drop into the pit of the nest. The eggs had no doubt hatched. I couldn’t see the babies at first, but amazingly after only about a week I could see three tiny beaks popping out above the bristly rim of the nest, and sure enough, they eagerly ate whatever their parents brought to them. Even more amazingly, after perhaps another week, I could fully see their heads; after several more days, their scrawny bodies stretched well above the top of the nest.
I was watching new life, and it was growing at warp speed. And today, they don’t look scrawny, but a little plump, and their beaks, which earlier had been a very pale yellow, are suddenly dark gray with a tinge of vibrant orange. One of them even stood up and stretched its wings. It’s not hard to imagine that one day soon, they will be able to use their wings to escape their present confines. After months of isolating at home due to the coronavirus, I can relate!
One thing I’m also waiting for is for them to start chirping. In the neighborhood, I hear the occasional bark of a dog or the stray laughter (or crying) of one of the neighbor kids. I also hear the music of other birds who inhabit the multitude of trees in the yard. But I’m waiting for “my” baby birds to start chirping, to add to the other sounds of this symphony. Will I eventually be annoyed by the constant chirping? I don’t think so. I’ve invested too much time in celebrating this new life not to enjoy it.
And so, I continue to watch “my” birds, and to give thanks for the privilege of watching new life come forth and thrive. It’s my own private Easter season, in a year when Easter celebrations were curtailed due to social distancing. Indeed, is there any surprise that colored eggs came to symbolize the Easter holiday? So to me, the birds are an inspiration. They are also instructive – even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, our task is to (re)create and nurture, and thrive in, our tiny piece of the world.
N.B.: The day after this reflection was submitted, the young birds started chirping when their parents brought them food. A couple of days later, two of them, now with the beginnings of their distinctive orange breasts, ventured out of the nest, first by taking tentative steps through the leafy branches and, following a few moments of further hesitation, took their first flight. The third young bird was more cautious. After searching the skies for its siblings, and spending a lonely night in the nest and a last feeding by one of its parents the next morning, it also left the nest.