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April 20, 2009

Gifts of nature

Several weeks ago, a sudden change in the weather produced an early spring snowfall in Chicago during the night into Sunday morning. As my husband and I drove down the street behind our house, we encountered a flock of robins in the street and along the curbs. That's right, an entire flock. Did you ever see a flock of robins? Neither had we until that morning.

There were about thirty or forty red-breasted robins milling in the street, mostly near the curbs, looking bewildered. It was always common to see an occasional robin on a lawn or pulling up worms from the ground but with the layer of snow, there were no worms to be had this day. A damp chill in the air must have added to their misery.

When we returned about an hour later, the robins were still there, looking as befuddled as before. They avoided the middle of the street, huddling along the curbs and under parked cars where it was dry. It occurred to us that they must have been en route somewhere and were possibly in trouble. They were now joined by a solitary goose, walking forlornly around the parking lot.

We went into the house and returned with a loaf of bread and broke it into small pieces and began scattering it around. Unlike the goose, the robins were careful to not let us get too close. But after we spread some bits of bread and started walking away, we noticed them start eating the bread. We spread the last of it and went back inside.

A half hour later, my husband passed down the street again to check on our adopted flock. They were gone. So was the bread - not a crumb in sight. He saw only the goose, who was still there the next morning. The flock of robins had continued on their journey to wherever they were headed.

Although it has been several weeks since we experienced this wondrous gift of nature, we often ask the same questions. What was their story? Where did they come from? Where were they headed? Why did they land here on such a snowy Chicago morning? Did we help them by providing food?

We are not bird watchers but do know that we'll probably never be surrounded by a flock of robins again on a snowy morning. We hope that by feeding them we had made their day special - just as they had made ours.

Have you ever seen an extraordinary gift of nature?

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