“Wren; small, migratory singing bird, Old English wrenna, metathesis variation of earlier werna, a Germanic word of uncertain origin. Compare Icelandic rindill, Old High German wrendo, wrendilo “wren.” (etymonline.com)
The suffix like is a model for Spring Theory, an evolution from the root gelic, lic, like, and to ly.
Wren perched in a little thicket of dogwood. I heard her first, of course, even above a whoosh of Taff water spilling the Blackweir. Then her roundness appeared so tiny, so seemingly defenseless in the face of human derogation (in this case, river-borne litter caught up in tweavelets). Yet here she was, chittering in the undergrowth and cocking her tail.
I have known riverish wrens before. They are fiercly courageous and bold. On the Wye, in huge floods, they are the first to fly to rafts of woody debris spinning the vortices, hunting for any poor insect clinging on to life. I’ve seen wrens hopping into frog ponds, pecking at spawn under the water and shaking off droplets high into the air. I’ve even seen them fully submerged, and go on to survive.
This early Spring day on the Taff was special again. I’d been watching a grey wagtail on the opposite bank, hunting for gnats; an aerial master of flight with astonishing dexterity of beak and feather. The hunt composed of leaps forward above the water, a flurry of wing and fan-tail in moments about a metre above the surface. To find those dynamic intersections in thin air ~ to take a speedy insect clean out of no-where with a small beak ~ is a marvel. It’s as though the skill is honed from thousands of years of experience.
I looked back to the wren, and with a flourish, she did exactly the same. It took my breath away. There’s no doubt, my wren was just as much a river bird as any other.
On the continent of the Americas there is a larger related ‘Marsh Wren’, a bird of the definitive sog and of hunting in the shallows. Who knows, perhaps there are latent symbiogenetic propensities, dna-deep, for all wrens to revert to the wet. The urge might even be driven by symbiosis with a riverish microbe, or a set of microbes, that do riverish things to life by the river, including me. Maybe that’s how evolution really shape-shifts; by life-attracting microbiomes, absorbing dna into a flow of opportunity, communication and relationship. We are learning more each day.
In taxanomic terms, wrens have been classed Certhioidea, from the Greek ‘kerthios’ ~ of the small tree, and I’m sure small trees will continue to give them shelter. But this little wren is attuning to new riparian hunting grounds. She is Potamiodae, from the Greek ’potamios’ ~ of the rivers, not of the woodland floor. Perhaps there are also wrens-to-be of the electricity substation, of landfills or new coastal re-enforcements. We’ll see.
Observing old hands at river life, and choosing to become part of those flows, means my wren is succeeding and contributing to the flow. She’s also enjoying it with devotion. It’s her choice, a consciousness, a form of patientism so deep that it may be the beginning of a new type of wren. In decades to come, homologous morphs of features may follow.
Perhaps we’ll all follow, in a dynamic state of wrenliness. And being wren-ly will surely be resilient in the maelstroms and giant upheavals to come. Resilience is not necessarily in the adaptation itself. We are already a greatly adaptive species. It’s in the courage for radical change, the putting ourselves into the reach of new flows, be it ways of living each day and/or submerging into new microbiomes. It’s something all life might welcome just now. And something evolutionary.