Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Robins and Jays, Symbols of Hope

It's the last day of February and snow still dominates the landscape. This is not unusual in most parts of Canada, but in our West Coast region...

The snow started in early December and except for a couple of brief periods, it's hung around causing commuter chaos. Having spent the last twenty years in the Kootenays of BC, I'm used to it. As is my family. We have snow tires. And use them. So getting to and from, for us anyway, has not proven a problem. But, being accustomed to snow, ice, and slippery roads does not mean we--I--enjoy the white stuff. Far from it.

I have Lizard blood. I like it hot. The hotter, the better. Give me a patch of sand, sunglasses, a good book, cold drink, and 38C and I'm in Heaven. Shoveling snow and scraping ice from the windshield is the equivalent of Hell to me. Which is why I was so delighted to see my first Robin this morning!

Photo copyright Deborah Small 2017

Robins, to me, are a symbol of hope. Of Winter waning as Spring gathers strength. Add in a Stellar Jay--

Photo copyright Deborah Small 2017
and I am positively giddy.

The last few weeks have been challenging; I've found myself mired in lethargy, a distracted funk in which the weather played only a small part, the major player being illness, and a certain new President whose agenda, policies, and striking lack of empathy and respect for the people he claims to represent, are as foreign to me as the seemingly corrupt world he inhabits.

But this post isn't about him. It's about the weather. About how Robins and Jays herald the season's change, how dark, cold, and gloomy days eventually give way to warmer, sunnier, brighter ones that eventually extend to weeks, and months of brilliance and abundance. It's about the power of regeneration, the ability of the earth and its creatures to survive, and emerge triumphant from even the longest, harshest winters.

Yes, some creatures perish before spring, whether from old age, infirmity, or lack of sustenance. But the majority survive. Those that do, owe their survival to preparation, stamina, and cooperation...

Squirrels, bears, Jays and bees are just some of the critters that prepare for winter by stocking up. They store food--either externally or within layers of fat--in advance of winter's first snowfall, a reserve to sustain them through the lean months.

Elk, Moose, Cougar are some of the creatures that rely on brute strength and stamina to see them through the long winter months. It takes huge reserves of energy to plow and paw through crusted-snow for dormant grasses and twigs, and to stalk and wrestle to the ground beasts three and four-times one's weight.

Wolves, Deer, Seals, Orcas are some that find strength--sustainability--in numbers; many eyes are better than two when on the look out for predators. Multiple sets of legs, lungs, feet, fins and fangs increase the odds of cornering or running down dinner. And as it appears a long brutal winter is descending on the US, it behooves all of us, throughout the world, to look to our furred, feathered, and finned brethren for clues on how to get through alive:

Prepare for the worst. The black storm clouds on the horizon might prove a brief, wintry blast; it might herald a lengthy blizzard. Stock up, emotionally and financially; gather happy moments, activities, extra cash, and people to your breast and protect them the way a hamster stuffs its cheeks with seeds. Draw on them sparingly in times of need, restore yourself on the sustenance love, laughter, and new adventures provide beleaguered hearts.

Stamina. This is not a Quarter-Horse race. More a mouse's round-the-world marathon. It can't be done in a minute. Or even a day. It's going to--potentially--take years to muddle through, and like the mouse, one must be clever, and alert. Find safe places to curl up and rest, when not attempting to stealthily navigate open fields shadowed by Eagles, and swim swirling rivers churned bloody by spike-toothed carnivorous pike.

Cooperation. Gather like-minded individuals close, and have each other's backs. Always. It's easy to give in to fear, run bleating, or roll-over and play dead when the Eagle swoops, or the Wolves howl; it takes courage to rally with the herd, form a protective circle, each member backed into the other facing out at disaster, the weakest and smallest sheltered at the center. But it's how entire herds manage to defend against, and even scare off, wolf packs, and ravenous cougars. Resistance and persistence, equal existence.

I for one, intend to continue to stock up on my favorite form of sustenance: fun memories made with family and friends, good books, and writing. Always writing. And I'm going to rebuild stamina by getting back into a regular exercise routine. Six-point Elk don't earn their tines wallowing in a mud bath. As for cooperation, that circles back to preparation for me.

My family, and friends, are my herd. And I will face out and fight to death to protect them. Because without them, who am I?

  Holding my grandson for the first time.
Photo copyright Deborah Small 2016


The greatest achievement of the human spirit is to live up to one's opportunities and make the most of one's resources. ~ Vauvenargues

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