American Robin chick learning to fly. Blue Hil...
Image via Wikipedia

There’s something about working in the garden that soothes the frayed edges of my nerves and makes time go away. The nest-building birds are mad with joy because as I trim the grasses wilting from the winter burden of snow, I leave them on the lawn and they make perfect building materials.

The slutty robin who nests  every year under the deck by my office window is on her second brood already. Busy, busy. When I’m outside, she sits in the dappled willow nearby and watches, but she’s never far away. At least she’s learned there’s no need to divebomb me when I go to the plastic bin to retrieve my tools. Surely it can’t be the same robin returning after all these years? Must be some sort of genetic memory that keeps them coming back to the same three or four nests every spring, renovating them and raising multiple families. The fledglings make an incredible racket when it’s close to feeding time. And they’re picky, too. The freshly dug worms from the flower beds are a family favourite. No need to dig around in the wilted lawn for food.

But even the greedy starlings and nasty grackles won’t touch the leftover corn and seed mixture I’d stored in a metal pail in the garage all winter. It’s obviously not up to their gourmet standards. Even the garden mice don’t bother, so I guess it will get pitched into the compost.

When the sun is out – and that’s less frequent this year – I’m drawn to my work gloves and old hiking boots and even if I just stand there admiring the clean slice of dirt as I edge the perennial beds, I feel content. The rich, warming scent of newly dug soil that’s rich with decaying leaves and crawly things reminds me that life is not all about sitting at a keyboard and cranking out work, no matter how pressing the deadline.


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