Where has this robin been, the one who
finally showed up here this morning
decked out in a dullish coat of gray
over a vest of faded red? Understated
for a serious harbinger I think, but
understandable given the rough blisters
of winter. It is an awkward dance,
tracking the retreating snow across open
ground-trot, pause, trot, pause, trot,
pause, pulling up the promise of spring
in a hard place. Its uncertain trill ignites
the embers of song lost to the air
for so long, soon to be fanned
by the flash and fire of the birds
when everything old is new again.
When the red, red robin comes bob, bob, bobbin’ along, along. It’s spring! Such a cliche. But in a recent essay in the New York Times, the author reconsiders the robin. The joy and relief it brings, “the sign of a natural cycle still intact.”
The robin in “Harbinger” is expected, hoped for, but does not herald spring as a conqueror, or a savior. Instead, it emerges unceremoniously, as always. It makes its way tentatively, thoughtfully, across a changing landscape, finding sustenance in newly open ground, testing its voice in new air.
I think all of us in education would agree that this has been a winter of discontent across the land. Attacks on the teaching community seem harsh, the work harder. The old cliche that teachers can handle it all, can work it out, can rise above no matter what happens, seems harder to live up to. And like the robin in this poem, many teachers feel fragile in the uncertainty of these times, even though we have worked across this landscape before, across many seasons.
The robin brings the surprise of spring, which sometime in late February, early March, we feel certain will not come again. But somehow it does. The air relaxes. And the robins go about building their nests again.
Right now, for teachers, it seems a daunting journey. But like the robin, with hope, we venture out in search of the flash and fire . . . when everything old may be new again.