The Robin and The Particular

Some December writing for you. You can listen on soundcloud too (5 mins)


December is upon us. The bare skeleton of the trees, showing what they are made of: strength, and endurance. In the pared back silhouettes, I watch the robins forage for berries in the remains of the harvest. A little one skits through the low brambles, seemingly giving flight to the hedge. Everything, even in its barest form, moves.

I have hung some bird seed on a feeder by my back window. Soon, with a little trepidation, more visitors arrive, in delight. More robins, and what I think may be a gold-crest. What we feed returns itself to us. The gift of my offering is given back in flight and red-breast. In the simple, eternal exchange of avian and human, something feels restored, if only for a few moments. Here on my backyard patch, where everything else is bare, wintering is commonage for this kind of love too.

We are nearing the end of a decade, a big chunk of time in a human life. Not even a blink in geological time. Just over a quarter of my own life. The years remind me of the gift of flight too: time flying and all that, so fast it is hard to reckon with linear time. The days move slowly, but the years? They seem to be wrapt in a magic cloak, transforming me through the questions they offer, and the ways they bring me deeper into the bare bones of life. My niece was three at the start of this decade, and is now going on young woman, who I barely recognise, such is the whole new cycle of life in her, in evolution. Ten years ago, there were people who I now call the dearest of friends, who I had never even met back then. And then there were the failures ahead, not even glimmers ten years ago, which I am only just beginning to realise have been, in fact, the greatest gifts of all. They have pared me back, and in the bare bones of my life, I can see, everything has been moving me, not from the external gauge of success, but from the inside out- my own barometer of being.

You see, when I scan the last ten years, in some ways, I don’t feel I have achieved much, except a collection of experiments and things which went pear shaped, and there were some very misshapen pears. I thought I’d have lots more books published by now, perhaps that PhD from Oxford, a house, a partner, and have set up something which has changed things, made a dent, internationally. But, this has not been the path of my particular, at least so far. Clearly the particular has things to teach me, mostly that I have been carrying a story which continually measures myself against a metric which is always just beyond me. Which is why checking in on the narratives I not only carry, but also perpetuate, is such a necessary thing.

Back on my patio, I watch those little robins on the branches inhabit the fullness of themselves, by virtue of being fully Robin. Not gold-crest. Not wren. But Robin. They are in the full expression of their particular. It is such a beautiful thing to witness.

And so, it makes me think, what is all our particulars. What is Clare’s particular? And what is your particular? Can we learn to live into that, and may that be enough.

That, I realise, always carries us back to our joy, and our gift: what is ours to offer.

And so, with that particular lens, I look back over these last ten year, and the story shifts. All those experiments, ‘failures’, have been expressions of my particular: the artist and writer in me, the experimenter, the learner, the friend, the do-er. The initiator has had a field day. The nature lover and sea-swimmer too. I’ve travelled, mentored, taught, written, painted, danced, laughed, wandered, questioned, pondered, tried things out, tried more things out, and learned, a lot, about what it is to be in relationship with what life is presenting: the simple act of living.

And so, with that lens, and with an indentured sense of gratitude, I think of all the ways life has taken me by the hand and drawn me closer to the essence of what I know to be a life well lived. I may not have all those books published, or reached these external things that I had set out for myself, but my goodness, isn’t there a robin only a few feet away, feeding on the seeds I have offered, looking like it is the bravest thing in the world: being its particular and glorious self.


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