A little over a week ago, a dead branch I was cutting knocked me off my extension ladder, causing me to fall seventeen feet to the lawn below. By the grace of God, I broke nothing. Once I got my breath back, I reset the ladder, climbed back up, and finished the cut. I even finished hanging the tree swing that I was working on in the first place.
Still, I was sore. When I fell, I landed on my right shoulder, and my neck ached like I had whiplash. Coughing or sneezing was a painful experience. Four days later, I was able to get in to my chiropractor. He verified that I broke nothing and gave me an adjustment. That evening, I felt like I had gone nine rounds in the boxing ring. Despite the beautiful weather, I couldn’t make myself go outside. I sat in the rocker in the large room of our addition (The Observatory) and stared out the window as I began making a to-do list for this summer.
That’s when I noticed the robin preening on my neighbor’s back porch.
I had been gifted a moment of deepening. I watched the robin clean its breast, wings, back, and tail feathers, and the seeds of this poem were planted. I was practicing Mary Oliver’s instructions for living a life. May this poem echo her sentiments and invite you into the intimate, simple moments of life as well.
Vincent H. Anastasi - 2021 Sitting before sunset held in robin reverie, I watch the redbreast preening, expert contortionist whose semaphore wings signal from my neighbor's porch: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. Ritual of minutes in frozen time: dipping beak probes wings, dents the perfect red breast, scratches the miraculously accessible back, combs fanned tail feathers, repeating the cycle again and again until fluffed clean, each feather optimally oiled and aligned, he waits in no rush to abandon his perch. I stare out my window, then fragments of this poem sneak onto the page beneath the imposing to-do list. If only my behaviors were as simple and profound, as pointed and delicate. Rather, my attempts to groom life leave me ruffled and ragged, precariously balanced on a shifting stage. Down by Wolf Creek my youngest son slowly pendulates on the tree swing over the gently flowing waters where earlier today a man passed, walking upstream looking for antique bottles amid the silt, stones, and crayfish. Meanwhile, the robin has flown. I return to the unfinished poem before me, dip my pen, probing my thoughts, denting the perfect still of a summer's evening to scratch the inscrutable itch, combing memories until each word and line optimally placed, I wait attentive, astonished, and ready to sing!
2 thoughts on “Lessons from the Redbreast”
Beautiful capture of a luminous moment. Thank you! Still glad you’re not broken.
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Thanks, James! Just loaded your audiobook onto my iPad for our trip. Can’t wait to hold the book in my hands. Theo is especially excited. Felt good enough to throw 21 holes of disc golf yesterday without pain, and only finished one over par. 🙂