You can see a lot of things along the lakefront in Geneva.
Sunday morning, after walking the dog, we took our customary seat on the bench and felt intense morning sunshine glance off diamonds of light on the water. I’m speaking for Rabia of course, but she was soaking it up as much as I was.
What I saw as I looked out across the water were the faces of mentors looking back at me across decades. It was the fortieth anniversary of my ordination as a priest and I wanted to hold my gratitude for the people who had touched and shaped me all those years ago. Unbeknownst to Rabia, I was witnessing the mental migration of those personal saints passing through the moment.
Then I noticed robins.
Along the miles of lakefront where strips of grass buffer sidewalks and water, robins flit and bounce. Since it has been so dry they are struggling for worms but hopping around they still find plenty of protein.
“Hi Robin,” I caught myself saying more than once on Sunday afternoon, riding my bike under the brilliant sun and smiling at all the people doing similar things along the lakefront. Even though it feels like robins are returning from a long winter’s break, many red-breasted friends have been around all winter. They are amazing creatures, far more adaptive than most of us humans. In the warmer months they feast on insects and worms, but as the climates changes so do their appetites. They switch to fruits and winter berries like junipers and hollies. We may imagine robins migrate, and while some do, a bunch stay around and go silent. They do not sing in winter. Now we can hear them, especially the males calling out for love, but those that stick around in the winter grow quiet.
One bird for sure slipped away in the winter: the red-winged blackbird. They take off with grackles, blackbirds, and starlings and flock south by the thousands. But now they are coming back. The males return first to select a territory. Throaty, complicated, and sometimes even sweet sounds trill out of their throats – with great volume and relentless repetition. They love the little marshy inlet opposite Long Pier Ice Cream,
and other marshy areas that run between the State Park road and 5 & 20.
In another few weeks the females will be here and the real noise begins. Already there are some grackles and red-wing blackbirds just hanging out in trees along the lake warming up their love lyrics. Then again, there were quite a few human young couples holding hands and playing along the lakefront Sunday afternoon, too.
On Monday morning Rabia and I were again sitting on the bench bathing in intense solar radiance. A robin bounced around in the grass, continuously looking back over its shoulder to make sure we meant no harm. In a tree a grackle tested its awful squawk – it sounds like someone stepping on their neck the moment the call is made. And a red-wing blackbird chirped its trill that rises up and down. This time when I looked out I didn’t see those ghosts coming my way, only a voice that said that after the first forty the back-forty still needs plowing.
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