A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Who’s There?

by Anne Kerrigan

by Anne Kerrigan

KNOCK. KNOCK. It was 5:00 AM on a bright and sunny Sunday morning in early July. My husband and I had hoped to have a “sleep-in,” after a very busy week. We each opened an eye, and groggily wondered who could be knocking at the door at this hour. No more noise. “We must have been dreaming,” I thought. We turned over. A few minutes later, the sound reoccurred. KNOCK. KNOCK.  “There must be a problem,” was my first reaction to the repeated sound. I climbed out of bed, rubbed my eyes, grabbed a robe, and made my way downstairs.Door knock

KNOCK. KNOCK. The sound was becoming more persistent, so I hurried toward the front door. I carefully opened it, because I had no idea what to expect. The glaring bright sun shocked me awake. I looked around. Nobody there. “We were dreaming!” I practically crawled upstairs, and back into bed. I had just about settled down, ready to doze off when I heard the knocking sound again. This time the sound was clear, distinct, and more persistent. I know what a woodpecker sounds like, and this did not sound like a woodpecker. I jumped out of bed, certain that there was a crisis at hand. I opened the door hastily, not knowing what to expect. Nobody there. Now, I was really confused. The sound had been so loud and clear, but not a person was in sight. Since it was so early, it would have been easy to detect a person at the front door, but there was clearly nobody around. Confused, I crawled back to bed, reassuring my husband that nobody was at the door. The noise was probably related to an early morning construction crew somewhere in the neighborhood, or even a very late night July 4th celebration with some remaining fireworks.

Five minutes later, the sound started again. Now, we both got up to investigate. Again, we opened the door and there was nobody there. We decided it would be futile to try to fall asleep again, so we opted for a freshly brewed pot of coffee. In anticipation of the sound, we settled in at the kitchen table, my husband with his large cup of caffeine, and me with a steaming hot cup of tea. We had no idea what was happening.

KNOCK. KNOCK. The noise definitely sounded as if it originated at the front door, and not from a local construction crew or fireworks. This time, we both went to open the door, planning to “catch” whoever this prankster might be.  What or who can it be? Then, just as we approached the door, we both caught the fleeting glimpse of a shadow from within the living room. Now, we were not just confused, but rather anxious.

Warily, we entered the living room. There were no more sounds, just a soft silence. Suddenly, the sound started again, but this time, we knew who it was. Just outside the large living room window, we saw a lovely robin, ambitiously pecking at the window. The clamor sounded exactly like a knock at the door. Since the living room and the front door are almost adjacent, the noise sounded as if it originated from the front door. This robin must have been our prankster!The Robin

In spite of the fright it gave us, we marveled at the beauty of the robin. Its red breast seemed luminescent in the early morning sunlight, and as it flitted back and forth, it looked like a large and exotic peacock. We continued to observe the robin for a while, marveling at the beauty of the bird. William Blake, an 18th century English poet, once said, “A robin red breast in a cage puts all heaven in a rage.” As we watched that lovely bird, we understood the poet’s sentiments. The bird continued to flit back and forth, with intermittent but persistent pecking. Not knowing when he would leave, we just left him alone and started the day. After a while, he just disappeared, and we relegated the incident to our memory bank. Little did we know that by the end of the summer, we would not think the robin was so lovely.

At 5:00 AM the next morning, the knocking started again. This second incident proceeded as the first, with persistent pecking at the window until about twelve noon. Then, our lovely robin red breast would just disappear. What we thought was an aberration became a daily pattern. For some reason, the robin had honed in on our house, and on our window. Every morning, day after day, week after week, the knocking began at 5:00 AM. The intermittent but persistent sound continued unabated, and never stopped until about noon. It was mentally draining. We were exhausted. window and brown paper

We finally called the local wildlife society to ask for help. They indicated that this robin’s persistent pecking was not unusual. They said that the bird might be seeing its own reflection in the window and was responding to that image. As the conversation continued, and we listened to the clear and thoughtful responses, it became evident that we were not the only ones who had ever had “robin” problems! They sent us a kit of “robin cutouts.” The instructions indicated that we were to cut out these paper robins and paste them on the living room window. Hopefully, this “flock” of robins would discourage our bird from the unremitting pecking on the window. We waited and waited for our robin to give up and leave. No luck. Now, it seemed that every day, all summer, our attention was focused on the feathered intruder.

Since the robin cutouts were not working, it was time to call the wildlife society again. Now, we were told to cover the windows with brown paper in order to eliminate the reflection possibilities. A trip to the local supermarket produced a dozen paper bags. We covered the entire window with the brown paper. A neighbour thought there had been a fire in the living room, and the windows had to be boarded up. The living room was now dark and dreary. In fact, it was very gloomy. Yet, the pecking continued. By now, we were into almost six weeks of the incessant pecking. The bird was no longer exotic or beautiful. I glared at him as he pecked, hoping my malevolent stare or my banging on the window would frighten him. Even the swinging broom did not dissuade him. Nothing discouraged this bird.

Then, one lovely day in late August, we woke up, glanced at the clock and realized it was 7:00 AM. We were startled awake. What happened? No alarm clock. No noise. Where was the robin? We ran downstairs, and peeked behind the brown paper. No more bird. He seemed to have vanished as quickly and as suddenly as he had appeared. Gleefully, but with a little trepidation, we removed the brown paper from the windows. The robin was gone. It was wonderful to have the summer sun in the room again! He never did reappear, and the incident never happened again. Even now, twenty years later, whenever I see a robin, I look at it with some suspicion. Will he be pecking on my window at 5:00AM? If he does, I will just let him be.

As I reflect on my experience with the robin, I feel that it very much resembles my relationship with God. I had always been aware of the beauty and presence of the lovely robins that have lived in or near the bushes. They have always brought much joy, loveliness, and music to the area around my home. But, it wasn’t until the experience of the unusual and distinctive presence of the robin pecking at my widow, that I became more fully aware of its presence. An error in navigation brought the robin to my attention in a rather dramatic fashion. Out of necessity, I became more interactive with the robin. I was no longer just an observer.

Similarly, just as I had been aware of the lovely robin’s presence around my house, I have always been aware of God’s existence all around me. His love, and my relationship with Him have always been an integral part of my life. But, sometimes, God has to heighten my awareness of him by “knocking,” just as the robin did. God’s grace, His knocking, has often awakened me to experiences of the tremendous beauty and glory of God. At other times, it is the overwhelming pain of illness, death, and loss that make me deeply aware of God’s presence. In the midst of such trauma, even my malevolent stare at the robin is reminiscent of some of the conversations I have had with God! But, just as with the robin, I am then interactive with God, no longer an observer or a passive recipient of His love. I am connected! My relationship with God deepens and develops, my awareness is heightened. So, I have learned to listen for His grace, the knocks, and then just let him be God, knowing that He is always present, and that nothing discourages Him. Just like that robin.

“If I shouldn’t be alive
When the robins come,
Give the one in red cravat
A memorial crumb.”
- Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886. American poet.   

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