He used to sing just outside my bedroom window every morning. I would open my eyes to the sound of his bellowing happy voice, and that is how my day would start. For a tiny bird, the Carolina wren packs a lot of sound into a very small space. When his sparkling call pierced the morning air, I would awaken knowing somehow all was right with the world. There is a gentle, soothing element present in a routine of any kind, and the wren’s call was part of my daily routine, until the day it wasn’t anymore.

It’s not like he died, or anything. He just decided to shift trees. I still hear him most mornings, but his call comes from far off in the forest, or sometimes from the front of the house. He moved his nest, too, after raising babies in the decorative straw fish by our back door for three years. Two bunches of babies a year he and his spouse would pump out from that fish!

Now, the fish sits empty during the summers, its round mouth inviting and hopeful. Maybe someday…

My mother is a believer in routine and schedule. And she will tell you whether you are interested or not in the importance of routines in a healthy life. I am nearly incapable of keeping a routine of any kind, but I believe what she has to say, I really do.

I do find the few routines I am able to keep together to be very grounding. They bring to me, as I said, a subtle, nearly indescribable sense of continuity and rightness with the world. My dogs know their dinner routine, and if food does not arrive on a certain spot on the kitchen floor at the prescribed time, they start dancing, squirming, and whining until it does. When the Carolina wren decided to leave his yearly nesting place, and to sing his morning song from other trees, I felt a bit squirmy and whiny, too.

But the world outside my window shows me that a regular routine is not a fixed notion in nature. The wren moved on. For all I know, he DID die, and the wren who calls from afar is someone else.

I keep a platform feeder for wildlife on a large maple tree on my deck where a possum and two raccoons visit regularly, but not routinely. Some nights, the food is there, but they aren’t. I wonder why they would pass up an easy meal? Then, the next night, there they are again, their round butts overhanging the wire mesh of the feeder platform. Many nights, one of the raccoons leaves me a pile of poop as a thank you card right in the middle of the feeder. Some nights, he doesn’t.

Cookie, my orphan possum lives in her own room where she has the run of the closets, dressers, storage bins, and feeding corner. She sleeps in a large, upturned laundry basket full of fleece blanketing. Except for those nights when she decides to curl up in an open cat carrier instead. I think if I offered her five more sleeping options, she’d use them all.At the bird feeders, the pileated woodpeckers sometimes put in a regular appearance for weeks or more. Then, even though the suet remains, the birds vanish for months at a time.

Mix it up, nature seems to be telling me. Move around. My heart trembles a bit at the realization that there is no place for true permanence in this world. It’s just not engineered that way. The thought brings me both comfort and discomfort. Maybe I’ll exchange my usual bowl of muesli for two eggs over medium this morning, and try on some flexibility. What could it hurt?

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