Way back on January 20th, a rare sunny day loosened the grip of winter. While out walking, I noticed the year’s first robins exploring the fruit trees. Within 24 hours, colder weather returned and forced these scouts back to their sea level outpost. The early arrival, however, portended winter’s retreat.

The days began to lengthen. In February, farm workers arrived to tidy up the orchard clutter. Intermittent mild weather allowed crews to prune branches and clean debris from between the rows of apple and pear trees. Their ragged winter skeletons became freshly shorn recruits, conscripts for the spring uprising against winter’s oppression.

The sale of our house and the purchase of another occurred simultaneously with this seasonal transition. I walked the flats as usual. I made mental notes but soon forgot them. My mind wandered. The teeter-totter of steroid therapy for my blood cancer, multiple myeloma, contributed to scattering my attention. I scanned the surroundings, but my mind brooded on the details of inspections, appraisals, and financing regarding both properties.

Mature fruit tree soon after spring pruning
Mature fruit tree soon after spring pruning

Normally, I would be tilling my gardens and ordering plants and seed. Instead, real estate contracts with an ocean of small print needed to be navigated. My wife and I made offers and counteroffers. We agreed to repairs and amendments. Phone calls, emails, and text messages flew back and forth between the realtors and us. These details blurred my preferred focus on natural phenomena.

The closing dates for the sales crept forward. My iris plants, which I’ve nurtured for years, will soon delight others. They thrust upward from the warming earth and have their own agenda, completely indifferent to who might admire them.

Inside our house, transformation ensued. Walls became barren as we stripped them of photographs. We emptied closets and shelving. We waded through 30+ years of family memorabilia, keeping only what our present mood deemed essential. Packing boxes, taped tightly shut, became stacked like levees against the flood of sentimentality. We hauled garbage and secondary items to the dump. The discipline to downsize and not make our new home an archival library for the past, took precedence.

The greening earth
The greening earth

I mowed our lawn one last time as a courtesy to the new owners. We arranged for a mover to transport our belongings. Monday, the 8th of April, a large truck will empty our home in the country. Our bygones will become the future for a young couple who, like us years ago, fell in love at first sight with the wonder of peace and quiet and space.

I am comfortable with our decision. It is the right thing to do. Looking ahead, I fret mostly for how my cat will make the conversion from lord of a country manor to that of a city slicker with closely defined territories.

Spring happens in spite of these minor worries. Small birds dispel the silence of winter with their friendly twittering songs. Woodpeckers drum on the bark of our maples, announcing their availability to mates in the forest. Mourning doves coo in the greening field grasses. And the robins… they’ve returned to settle in the countryside. Each day they arise early to sing and cavort with their spouses, plucking earthworms from the soil, and gathering nest-making material for their own new residences.

6 thoughts on “Robins

  1. I can’t think of a more fitting time for the cliché: “When one door closes, another opens” – quite the contrasting move there, John, all the best.



  2. A teary read, but a good move.I will miss Alder Road, but look forward to seeing you in your new home on Elliot.



  3. Best of luck to you both in your new home. I’m sure it is bittersweet but a whole new adventure for you also.


  4. Thinking of you both and wishing you well. Spanky will find new adventures in the “downtown digs.” Hope to see you soon. Lark


  5. Such a well-written piece, John. Yes many of us will also miss your beautiful home and property. How wonderful that the timing is working out well with a new home. I look forward to visiting you and Marilyn there! Sending lots of love! Jane


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