Do you hear what I hear? Not really.

Do you hear what I hear? Not really.
"Have you heard the robins?" I ask an elderly acquaintance at church. She appears to be in her early 70s.

Her straight salt and pepper hairdo has perfectly straight comb lines that start at her forehead and travel up and over her head to her neck.

"No," she replies. A dusting of light facial powder and a touch of rose on her cheeks and lips add to her presence. Her jaws move in repetitive motion to the rhythm of her chewing gum.

"You haven't?" I challenge her. Forever more – how can that be? Robins have been making a commotion for a couple weeks now. "They're making quite a racket out there. In fact, there are robins everywhere," I needle the notion.

"Well honey, I don't get out much," she said, setting me straight. "Oh, every once in awhile I have to go get groceries. Like yesterday – I hadn't left the house all week. But I was all out of food and just had to go to Wal-Mart. What a chore that was!"

I shutter over what she is telling me. She has not heard or seen robins yet this spring. After such a long cold winter, how could anyone miss these signs of new life?

Then, I wince at the thought of her stasis – caged inside – self-imposed or medically restricted – with limited steps and breaths outside. I don't want to think about it. So, I come up with another way to help her experience this right of spring.

"You may be able to see robins out your windows," I suggest with slightly overdone enthusiasm as a balm of hope.

"Well dear, I live in an old trailer, you see," she corrects me again, looking up over the top of her glasses, which have come to rest just above her nostrils. "With the windows up so high, I don't see much out there," she concludes, wrinkling and straightening her nose in one synchronized motion, which works to push her glasses up a bit.

"Oh, I see," I nod to her truth. She has not heard or seen of robins this year, nor does it seem to matter much to her.

In this woman's presence, I contain my exuberance over these dark gray-winged, brick-bellied songsters who have broken through the icy cover of the last five months.

I hold back my relief over winter's grip now released to robins' resounding lyrics… Cheer up, cheerily, Cheer up, cheerily.

Such heralding can only signal a slowly but surely thawing of earth and sky and the sweeping away of dreariness.

I press down my dancing spirit, which is now in step with the melodic tune of rebirth.

The church organist begins the prelude

"I understand," I lie, looking down and away from her.

As I reach for a worship book and thumb through it for the opening hymn, I selfishly petition God: Let me always notice and relish the return of robins.

Then, as congregates lift their voices high to the tune of Onward Christian Soldiers, I silently beckon robins from all parts.

Come hither from wherever you have been wintering. Come hither and surround me with the rising and falling pitch of your hymn. Come hither and sing me a new song.

A resident of Southeast South Dakota for more than 30 years, Paula Damon is a popular columnist, keynote speaker, and freelance writer. Her columns have won first-place national and state awards in The National Federation of Press Women competitions. Most recently, Damon's writing took second place statewide in the South Dakota Press Women 2007 Competition. For more information, e-mail paulada

© 2008 Paula Damon

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