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How to Emerge with Hope After a Pandemic Year

A small family of birds mirrors the emotional journey of stepping back into life after COVID.

Emerging with hope post-pandemic

Once the forsythias have dropped their yellow blossoms from the bushes that line the outer fence of my neighborhood park, my neighbors contract with a landscaper to prune the wild branches into a neat shape for the summer. 

This year, though, we told the landscapers to hold off after we discovered a robin’s nest tucked into the bush. The nest contained an egg. The next day, a second egg appeared, and after that a third. 

My family joined others in making a daily visit to the area, gently peering through the branches to see what the new day had brought. As the days passed, I started to realize that our ability to observe these robins emerge into a new season was an apt metaphor for the process we’re going through as vaccination rates rise, COVID rates fall, and we step back into something resembling life as we used to know it.

Each time we approached the nest, I took a deep breath and acknowledged a momentary anxiety that something had happened to the precious eggs tucked into the nest or to the mother bird who sat faithfully to protect them. Seeing them right there where they belonged was an invitation to exhale, a tiny celebration that precarious as they may appear, these creatures were surviving, progressing day by day. So were we.

The mama robin mirrored feelings I’ve had when re-entering social situations. Sometimes she stayed put on her nest, looking placid and unbothered by our presence. But other times, she fluttered away as we approached, claiming the space she needed to feel safe but remaining, vigilant, on the ground close by to make sure her eggs were undisturbed. 

One day, instead of three eggs, there were two eggs and one tiny, wet hatchling in the nest. And then, two chicks. Finally, three. I remarked to my family how I had a strange feeling of being surprised to see them hatch, like, “Oh, yeah, this is what was always going to happen next.” 

This feeling was familiar to me as well. I realize that the long darkness of the pandemic is something that, not unlike an egg, drew us inward, into the shells of our personal safety. But the goal was always to emerge, to crack through, to slowly explore our surroundings as if for the first time. 

The robin fledglings spent several days with their eyes closed, gradually shuffling their bodies around their nest and craning their open mouths hopefully upward until their mother brought them nourishment. Feathers began to sprout from their tiny bodies. Their eyes opened. Their beaks strengthened. 

And then, one day, they had taken the final step, flying off into their future lives.

Soon, the landscaper will trim the bushes into a neat hedge. The forsythias will have done their work of protecting a small family as it transitioned from vulnerability into freedom, protectiveness into growth. The robin family, too, will have fulfilled its part in the emergence of a new season, one of perseverance and possibility and—among themselves and with their human neighbors—connection.

Do you see your post-pandemic feelings reflected in the natural world?

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