This morning a robin died outside my window. I’d been feeding it since the cold weather came. But last night was around -11C and was sudden.
The dead robin had a pal, another male robin. Quite unusual since the birds are usually territorial, but both fed from my bird table in shifts without any aggression. They were either gay or had learnt tolerance. Since the demise of Robin 1, Robin 2 has become aggressive to anything with wings.
Holding the robin this morning, depressed me for a while. I twittered – appropriately – the report of its death and then wrote 1500 words of a rollicking yarn, without a single reference to birds of any kind.
The incident of the robin reminded me (yet again) of how short life is, and how suddenly death can arrive. The thought almost stimulated me into a writing frenzy, but I paused for a while and realised that if I had twenty minutes to live I would not spend them writing. I would spend those minutes saying goodbye to those I love.
And making sure the bills had been paid.
But, if I had five years, I would spend them writing and travelling. I would trek up Mount Vaea to the grave of Robert Louis Stevenson on Samoa and thank him for ‘Kidnapped’ and ‘Treasure Island’: books that impressed me so much as a child. I might even revisit Stratford and look up Will Shakespeare or re-read Dickens in entirety.
And I would try to write something useful.
As an ex-commercial writer my life has been spent with clients, producers, advertising agencies and in the boardrooms of large companies. The aim of most of the writing has been to flog a product. Occasionally, I did something creative and satisfying that made a positive difference to someone’s life. Occasionally.
My new novel is not trying to flog anything. Whether it is useful or not is yet to be decided. If people find elements of it not to their taste, well, that cannot be helped. If people find bits of it useful, I will be ecstatic. If anybody reads it of course.
And that made me think about legacy: what we leave behind. I wonder if the robin left anything behind, or was his life and death intended to remind me – specifically – about the ticking clock and in some way remind a reader of this blog – yes, you – about things left undone?
Or maybe it is simply a dead robin finishing a purposeless existence because it froze to death.
Metaphysics: doncha just love it. I hope the other robin stays alive, but will it matter if it does not?
To paraphrase Marcus Aurelius, who will remember anyone living now, in ten thousand years? Who will remember you in 100 years when all your friends have made the last hurrah and joined the golden hordes?
And on that depressing, but also oddly empowering note, I will leave this subject alone.