Harder Than It Looks

Being a bystander is harder than it looks: I have much of the interest in the activity that participants have, but little of the satisfaction that comes from being in the fray.

Being an amateur is harder than it looks: I have much of the love of the subject that professionals have, but little of the knowledge that would allay fears.

Being a grandparent is harder than it looks: I have much of the concern about outcomes that parents have, but little of the day-to-day input to address them.

Having a robin’s nest on the porch is harder than it looks. I play, simultaneously, all these roles: bystander, amateur, grandparent. OK, not that last one exactly, but I feel remarkably protective of this robin family that chose our porch this season. I’m watching closely for a glimpse of the babies, and hoping that the dagnabbed raccoons living in the neighbourhood don’t come back.

4-photo collage of nesting robins

I don’t think I’m unique in reacting to a nearby nest with more interest and concern than the lives of a few birds seem to warrant in the grand scheme of things. And if I can feel this way about a robin family with no connection to me beyond their proximity, what can I feel about human families with no connection to me beyond their presence in my community?

If I saw every kid I meet as a baby robin, what wouldn’t I do?

Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.
All things break. And all things can be mended.
Not with time, as they say, but with intention.
So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.
The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.
L.R. Knost


To eliminate or minimize any disturbance to the birds
hese photos were taken on a fixed tripod from behind our front-door window.


This entry was posted in New Perspectives, Photos of Fauna, Thinking Broadly and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Harder Than It Looks

  1. Jim Taylor says:

    Oh, I’m with you. But I also know that there are some people who, if they saw a baby robin on the sidewalk, would feel a sense of power and superiority in crushing it under their feet. When I see Knost’s love, my heart opens wide; when I see cruelty, I feel only anger.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – I hope there aren’t too many of us who are deliberately cruel, but I sometimes despair of how easy it is to be inattentively unhelpful, if you see what I mean.

  2. Tom Watson says:

    To pick up on the one point, I think we have more influence with our grandchildren than we often think. It’s not day-to-day, and it’s not as direct as that of a parent, but it’s there. It’s there in the mere fact that grandchildren pay attention even when we think they’re not…and they take in lessons from many places and interactions.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – A good point. In another context, some friends and family were recently discussing (virtually) the often-true fact that our children have their own relationships with our parents: and often, an easier relationship.

  3. I adore my socially distanced relationship with my neighbour, aged 3 1/2. I am old enough to be her grandparent (or more, horrors!), and we have a somewhat similar relationship. Fortunately for us, we see each other every nice day over the short fence, and this summer she enjoys having conversation about dandelions, her swimming pool, her new dresses, and any other important topics on her bright mind. All relationships are important and influential on both (many) sides.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – What a delight. It *does* take a village to raise a child, as hackneyed as that phrase has become, and I guess in the big city we get to make our own village.

  4. Thank you for Knost’s poem, Isabel. That’s the “churching” I need today!

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