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There it was, within January’s mid-morning brilliance, immobile save for yellow-encircled bead eyes in its brown head rotating in all directions. It was the American robin, solitary, its claws grasping one of the bare branches of my lilac bush, their hard tips swelling with promise of color.

As I watched, ancient legends of robins came to mind.

The robin’s russet breast recalled that of another: Moved by the blood-soaked prisoner carrying a cross-beam that morning at Calvary, that robin noted His crown of thorns mashed into His head, plucked out one, and flew off, its breast ever stained with His blood.

Another legend credits the robin for shielding the Christ Child during the family’s harrowing trip to Egypt. A nearby fire spewed sparks threatening the Infant, but were absorbed by the robin.

Such legends also attributed to many kinds of birds—doves, peacocks, eagles, gold finches, larks, owls, pelicans, blackbirds, etc.—found their way into the work of Renaissance artists and suggests their rich imaginal interplay. Indeed, a certain playfulness, in the deepest sense, suggests a faith-dynamic absent in many Christians: Their fire has gone out.

It was so still as I continued watching my robin. Variegated browns and blacks filled out her wing and tail feathers that ruffled in docile breezes.

Then, the robin flew away. Again, I’d been visited, my world enlarged with hope.

I must sit inside my open-air house, be sifted by silence, and listen. I will return later.

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