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Quarantined with a Red Breasted Robin

Kimberlee Tompkins

Posted on May 29 2020

In the Spring 2020, the world came to a stop. The wheels of commerce slowed down to a frighteningly slow pace, while the world adjusted to the application of new words into our reality. Terms like “self-quarantine”, “social distancing” and “essential worker” took on new meanings to us all. Seemingly overnight we went from a world divided by nationality, color, income, and race. To one world, fighting against one microscopic yet powerful enemy, COVID -19.

That was the Spring we had a pair of Red Breasted Robins make a nest in the chicken berry bush by our front walk. To me it was a peculiar location choice as there was the constant flow of our many family members walking past the big, untamed bush. 

As our families were subject to “stay at home” orders from the state's governor and the President of these now United States, I watched this normally unnoticed and rather bland mating pair build their home in our bush. I doubted their choice of location and wished them safety and protection from the noise and calamity that is our house, with all its residents home 24/7.

As “Mama” settled herself in her new nest, I observed the articles they had carefully chosen to construct with. The usually array of twigs and sticks, purposefully and methodically woven together to miraculously make a structure sturdy enough to house their fragile eggs through April showers. Interspersed between the twigs and sticks were bits of old faded blue tarp. I recognized the color and texture from our backyard. It was a tarp so old that it had started to disintegrate. It was bleached from the sun, worn thin from the wind and ice storms. I recalled the times I had barked at my husband to “pick up his crap” 

Isn’t Karma a real bitch sometimes? That same said “crap” was now a vital part of a small structure to care for a creature's young. I looked around my yard, my heart yearning to protect my children from this deadly virus. Feeling slightly like I was watching myself in a science fiction movie, I felt that man and beast have become one. Egotistical humans have been stripped of their Starbucks and Amazon deliveries. Stripped of their abilities to selfishly destroy our planet’s environment. And we are all like the Red Breasted Robin, searching around for scraps to fortify our home and to raise our young. We yearn to spread our wings and shelter their tiny little bodies from harm.

As the days melted into weeks, which then morphed  into months, I watched Mama everyday. Every morning, I walked out to inspect my early spring plantings of hardy swiss chard, spinach and romaine lettuce...and to see how Mama was. I always said something to her, feeling as if she must be lonely and scared, as a global pandemic was raging over the planet.

“How ya doing today, Mama?” 

She looked at me. Always looked right at me. 

I smiled, sometimes as tears welled up in my eyes. Tears of joy, to be alive and well, to be home to see Mama roost. Sometimes tears of jealousy. She did not know a thing about COVID-19, did not have google on her iphone streaming the latest and greatest depressing news of death tolls and essential workers sacrificing their own safety to work without adequate protective equipment.

Now, truth be told, this is not the first time I have been envious of birds. I’ve always longed for their ability to soar through the air, swooping and sailing, gliding and coasting...I’m assuming without fear as they fly with a confidence in their instincts, not a pilot who you have never met before.

Jealousy of a bird's ignorance for the larger world was a first. I made the decision that 

“How ya doing, Mama?” was no longer appropriate. 

She could not answer me. 

All she could do was stare and watch me anthropomorphize her. Was she scared? Was I bothering her? Did she look forward to my morning visits as I did? 

I moved to a statement of encouragement. 

“Hey mama, you’re doing a great job.” 


“Hey Mama, it's going to be ok, raising babies is hard”


“Hey Mama, you and your babies are going to be just fine.”

Most of these comments resulted my husband shaking his head and saying

“I don’t know about you.”

I wondered if he thought this quarantine was finally getting to me. 

Every day, twice a day, I conversed with Mama and I thought of my friends out there. Friends I missed dearly, whom I want to hug so bad my heart ached and my eyes welled up at just the very thought of an embrace. Whatever I say to Mama is reflected back to me, through the light and energy she and I share as two living beings in this COVID-repressed world. I may never know if she needed to hear she was doing a good job. Or that her babies were going to be ok. I did know, for a hard and true fact that I needed to hear it from her. Were my babies going to be ok? And yes, being a parent is the hardest thing you can do with your life, but it's ok because I’m doing a good job.

I felt the swell of my own mama bird breast as I walked back into my house, my wings spreading wide to embrace the not so tiny humans that once grew inside of me. I hold them as long and as close as they will let me. One more time, one more hug. One more fanning of the feathers of the communal bonds of motherhood, holding our breaths as we draw our babies to us, praying and yearning and wishing with all our will to keep our babies safe.





three sisters herbals blog posts

About: Kim is a momma, wife and small business owner. 
She lives with her family in Duchess County, NY, where she enjoys her rescue dog, bunnies and hamsters. And her daughter's cat... Grand Kitty.
Her family loves camping, gardening, hiking, geocaching, and all things outdoors.
She is the owner/creator of Three Sisters Herbals, LLC., which she affectionately calls “her other baby”. 
TSH is the same age as her youngest human baby, and they are all growing up together.


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