Sunday, May 24, 2009


Peace on Earth is what we want. I have always said that peace begins at home. There are times when I wish I had not said that, home being a most difficult place from which to work on it.
We were 2 hours drive away from home when we got the long distance call that began the adventurous test of our capacity for neighbourliness. Mark was on the line. “A robin is building a nest on the platform at the top of a veranda pillar. Shall I knock it down before she gets too far along?”
“No,” we said, without the slightest hesitation. We like to think of ourselves as the kind of people you’d want to live close to. The veranda pillar is, admittedly, pretty close to the veranda, where we spend hours every day walking, sitting, eating, planting and tending the planted pots. But we are kind of fond of robins, and we figured the robin would soon get used to us.
It was the Monday of the May long weekend. Normally we would have been out on the veranda for most of that day. But it was snowing and blowing, not an outside day at all. So instead of rushing home we visited a while longer, then made our way slowly home.
By the time we stepped out on the veranda, nest evidence was present on the tops of four pillars. This, surely, would be the test of principle for our live-and-let-live intention. Large as it is, could the veranda possibly be big enough for all of us? The answer, we concluded, in spite of, or maybe because of our peace-loving nature, was “No!”
We decided to knock down the nests. It was the only sensible thing to do. We reasoned that it surely would stop snowing some time soon. Then we would be out on the veranda for hours every day, walking, sitting, eating, planting and tending the planted pots. We would be entertaining guests, hosting large parties. Nesting robins want peace and quiet. How, we wondered, could we possibly do this in the presence of eight protective robins sheltering the precious contents of four nests. It was all wrong. It could not happen. To our way of reasoning, something definitely had gone amiss in Robinland. A news flash had obviously been erroneously circulated. “Free Veranda Space Available For Nesting!” it must have proclaimed. At that time we did not yet know that nesting robins, having found several similar places in close proximity, will begin more than one construction project, then settle on one to finish.
Robin’s nest bashing would have been out of the question for us back in the days of our innocence. But experience has hardened us. Robins, we have discovered over the years, are not the passive singers we believe them to be. Once they have a nest, the concept of peace on Earth goes right out the window. For several summers we tended the back flowers and raspberries while enduring the verbal taunts and dodging the stunning air manoeuvres of the robin family that housed its nursery in the supports under Mark’s balcony. We were sad the year they abandoned that nest—well, sort of sad—and sort of proud that we hadn’t evicted them. We like to think of ourselves as the kind of landlords who wouldn’t evict a family with new babies. We know how stressful pregnancy and child raising can be.
If our robin-related innocence was compromised by the defending-the-nest-near-the-raspberry-patch incident, then it was truly shattered by an attack which David endured one morning while out on a before-work run through our former neighbourhood. One minute he was jogging down a sleeping residential street, the next moment he was dodging a robin-shaped projectile that seemed to be headed straight for him. It missed, then aimed again. It missed. On the third pass the robin bonked him on the head. He acknowledges that the offending robin is now very likely dead. He admits that he may unwittingly have shocked the robin, may have inconsiderately passed very close to a nest. Still, he has found that level of robinesque aggression difficult to forgive. The possibility of making several daily trips at close range past four robin families was not within his power of imagination.
We would have knocked down the nests that very evening had it not been for the snow, and the bitter cold, and the biting wind that drove us to huddle under blankets on the couch. As it turned out, there was no need to knock down four nests. Next day, when we got home from work, only the original nest remained. The other three had been cleared away. The robins had done it. “You said you’d be willing to keep one,” they reasoned from their pillared home. And we had to admit that one nest was a lot better than four. That was last Tuesday.
Yesterday was Saturday. It had stopped snowing. It had stopped freezing at night. We had taken to spending several hours a day out on the veranda walking, sitting, eating, planting and tending the planted pots. Our resident parents-in-waiting, calm through the freezing week, were less pleased about the change in the weather than we had hoped. This is a bit of a disappointment, given that we are likely to be in close proximity for the next four weeks or so.
With nearly two weeks to go before hatching day, we have already begun to feel like aliens in our own land. In our defence, let me declare here and now that we have not intentionally caused a moment’s worry to them. It’s time for trips out to the veranda to assess the need for coats, to eat outdoor lunches, to plant flowers, to weed and water. So we walk innocently along the veranda. Swoosh! We call out to each other. Swoosh! We raise a watering can. Swoosh! At this very moment I suspect the robins are meeting with lawyers to explore the legality of issuing us an eviction notice.
Under these circumstances neighbourliness is not as easily achieved as it’s cracked up to be. So we are now tiptoeing along the veranda, or walking gingerly on the sidewalk just below. We’re speaking more softly. One imagines that we’ll soon be whispering over the distant roar of traffic so as not to wake the babies. We are not entirely without other options either. Possibly by the end of this week we’ll be using the back alley as a less direct route to the front door. Peace loving people that we are, eggicide is not currently worthy of consideration.

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