The robins are here and it is still January. Their robust orange/red breasts are difficult to miss against the dry, hay colored ground. There is no snow and I watch them peck at the hard soil, successful in their hunt for bugs and seeds. I realize I am writing they because the image in my mind is of three robins I watched out my kitchen window yesterday, of the two I watched fly among the branches of my maple, and of the small flock I watched in my neighbors yard. They. Them. Always more than one, traveling together, for protection, for success in finding food, and maybe even for companionship.

They migrate, moving south in winter, their presence back north one of the first signs of spring. But it is January and we are still in the throes of winter. My research reveals that the majority of robins do migrate but a few stick around here in the North, maybe to see what all the fuss is about. The robins I have seen look healthy, happy, fat.

In my ornithology classes in college, we learned about bird migration, at least as much as scientists know. I remember talking about their nose, possessing an organ of some sort, which scientists believed worked like an internal GPS, guiding them to places they’ve never been.

Birds also use the stars and the sun to guide them, at least that’s what we think.

These modern explorers who haven’t evolved, or haven’t needed to, trusting the Earth to guide them to more food, a safer life, and success. I find that amazing.

I wish humans had an internal GPS which worked with the stars to guide us to the right place, to guide us down the right path, you know the one which leads to our greatest selves, to our greatest success. Even as I write this last sentence I smile, knowing I do have that.

It’s my gut. I trust it explicitly. I don’t know if it works with the stars and the sun (I’d certainly like to think I have that kind of connection) but it frequently tells me when I’m veering off course, when something about my current situation is off, and last week showed me I had made a choice, I just hadn’t acknowledged it yet.

We had to make some heavy decisions lately, regarding our family and work and safety and distance and time and money. Making decisions always takes me time. I weigh the options, imagine both or all scenarios, go down the worst possible path and then the best possible path and after chewing on all of that, determine where I stand. If, in my thinking and processing, at any time I feel tense or dark or scared, I know that’s the wrong choice. Although the decision we’ve made didn’t come lightly, it comes with a feeling of lightness, which tells me we’re on the right path. My husband will be working overseas and we cannot go with him. It won’t be easy but it’ll be okay.  I’ll remind myself of what we’re gaining, that, like the robins, we made this decision to better our lives and to take care of our family.

The robins are back, under the maple out front, along with all of the other birds who stay here in the winter – chickadees, cardinals, sparrows, nuthatches, the titmouse, juncos, wrens, bluejays, doves, bluebirds, and finches.

We hear and see the ravens and crows, the loud and raucous starlings and the beautiful red-tailed hawks, perched on the telephone poles along the highways, listening for mice and rodents along the ditches. I honk at them, giggling when they jump and ruffle their feathers. I feel a kinship with birds, both those who migrate and those who stay. We too were a migrating family, having moved halfway across this amazing country four times in sixteen years. Our hope is for better, in a myriad of forms – better jobs, more opportunities, a happier life. We never know if our decisions were the right ones, for we only see the result of our current path but we trust the process, we trust the stars and the GPS and the sun and our guts. But for now, we are winter birds, getting ready for big changes and hunkering down for the long haul.