A Time in the Heart

A Time in the Heart March 20, 2009


Robins look … well, silly. They stand on the grassy verge with heads upraised, stock still for indefinite periods like little feathered statues, than drop down and make lightning-fast dashes to some other part of the lawn. Where they again stand still for an unpredictable while.

And despite all the press they get in songs and stories, they’re not even all that pretty. An unattractive dull gray body, ugly yellowish bill. Okay, they do have that red breast thing going for them, but it’s not even really red, is it? More of a reddish brown. And when you live in a place where brilliant scarlet cardinals regularly visit your back deck – not to mention equally colorful blue jays, red-winged blackbirds, goldfinches, and several kinds of red-accented woodpeckers – robins are pretty tame fare.

And their species name? Turdus migratorius. If they were human kids, they’d be teased into the grave by the other kids before they reached the fifth grade. “Hey, here comes TURDus! How you doin’, TURDus? How’s your sister, Pia?” If science had comedians, we’d be hearing jokes every spring about flying shit landing in our yards. “Have you heard? The robins are back! Turdus migratorius! Watch where you step, folks! Splat! Ha-ha!”

And yet, every spring, I’m glad to see them. There can be snow on the ground six inches deep, but if it’s springtime, these eternal optimists will be there.

We could use some optimism about now. After 8 years of Bush and his little band of back-stabbers and kitten-drowners, we get a new, better president just as we’re sinking into an economic depression.

It’s been especially tough for some of us. I lost my job several months back, as you probably know, over a beef I had with my boss, and I’ve been hustling around for freelance work, but it’s not coming in anywhere near fast enough. Also lost my house, had to move, and my phone rings all day long from bill collectors. Whether or not I can pay it all eventually, it’s a sure thing my credit is nuked for the next 7 years or so.

I almost hate to say any of that. I think the main reason I haven’t been posting much here is that I’ve been wholly caught up in the frozen force of this personal economic moment and haven’t wanted to write about it. Or anything.

If I were undergoing counseling, I’d bet my therapist would find this childhood detail interesting: I had a rather odd mom who, anytime I got hurt, got mad at me. By the time I was 10, I’d learned that if I wasn’t actually gushing blood, it was better to keep an injury to myself. Can’t tell you how many times I pulled rusty nails or dirty glass out of my feet, and kept mum about it. I fell off a roof one time when I was about 12, a distance of about ten feet, right onto my neck. I got up and staggered woozily for a moment or so, then ran off and hid until I felt better.

Whether it’s this childhood leftover (I think it’s at least possible) or some sort of macho guy thing, I do hate the reactions you get when your life falls even temporarily into a crack. Even genuine expressions of sympathy come across as an uncomfortable spotlight. “Oh, you pore thang! Are you gittin’ along all raht? Honey, run down to the basement and see if we got any old clothes we can give this pore boy. I’ll fix him some hot soup.”

Things are picking up, I think. I got over the discomfort of cold-calling people to rustle up business, and I’m making 20 or so calls every day. I’m getting some brochure design work, a little editing work now and then, and some interest here and there in website design that might pan out. And I have a substantial site I’m just starting on for my illustrator friend, the one whose basement I’m living in.

Life’s not all dark. I’m learning new stuff every day — Dreamweaver, Flash, Illustrator, Photoshop! — and that’s always been a pleasure of mine. And I have some fun personal projects in the works.

I get the daily enjoyment of seeing the birds that my friend feeds on his back deck, and the feisty gray and red squirrels, the sprightly chipmunks, that come to take advantage of the feast. I see whitetail deer sauntering through the back lot almost daily, and recently, a flock of wild turkeys. Red foxes are frequent visitors at night, and we’ve even spotted a couple of fairly large coyotes visiting in the moonlight.

But other than that … whew! — It’s been a long winter. I’m tired of the cold and the snow, and waaaay ready for a change.

And here it is, in the person of these little feathery bundles of optimism. The calendar might not agree, but nature says it, and my heart concurs.

Today, the robins are back. It’s spring.


[ Ahem. I just looked at the calendar. Today IS the first day of Spring. Duh. ]

"Best to you, Mr. Fox, and for your efforts."

Goodbye Patheos—Hank Fox Bows Out
"All the best, Hank! Your thoughts and words have always given me something to ponder."

Goodbye Patheos—Hank Fox Bows Out

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