Lately, I’ve been considering nests. Mainly because, now that all deciduous trees are void of leaves, I can see the nests in their branches. Since we live in a tiny town (population 300, thank you very much), we often travel to the next town over for necessities like gas and Girl Scout meetings. The eight-mile stretch of road between the towns is countryside–pastures and forests. When I’m not the one in the driver’s seat, I’m usually scanning the woods and fields for wildlife (translation: I’m watching for suicidal deer).
On our way to church last Sunday, I glanced toward the woods on my right and something very large lifted from the treetops. Then another something. As they came closer to our minivan I almost screamed with excitement as two bald eagles soared above. My husband attempted to simultaneously see the birds above through the windshield and keep the vehicle on the road. The kids chorused, “Where? Where?” and then finally saw the majestic birds. We’ve seen the eagles’ nests before, even met one named Liberty at the Jamestown Audubon Society, but had never seen them in the wild. So big, so strong, so free.
Just the other day, after a particularly windy storm, I found a little nest under the hemlock tree in my backyard. It’s now on my back porch. The kids enjoyed looking it over, pointing out the various items that made up its framework: lots of small twigs and dried grass, a bit of string, some fishing line, a long piece of blue plastic (probably from the frayed edge of one of those rain tarps). Along the inside, where the babies would have broken free from their shells and their featherless, pink bodies would have snuggled, were layers of soft down and hair.
I am constantly amazed at how the birds make their homes. I’ve seen the time-lapse video on nature specials, and I’ve watched youtube videos of birds building nests. It really is amazing to see how the nests are anchored to the branches in such a way as to provide safety for the flightless babies and shelter for the whole family. We’ve viewed various nests from a safe distance with binoculars, everything from the eagle’s nest as big as a queen-sized mattress to a hummingbird nest, smaller than the palm of my hand. Each home meets exactly the needs of that particular bird.
A friend of mine recently gave birth. In the weeks prior she discussed on facebook how she was preparing for the baby’s arrival. She was cleaning, preparing meals and freezing them, stocking up and organizing baby essentials. People responded by telling her she was “nesting.” What an interesting way to describe that unusual burst of energy and desire to make everything “perfect” for the baby’s arrival.
I guess we all have our nests, the places and spaces where we feel at home, safe, secure, and comfortable. My chicks, still in the nest, sometimes manage to ruffle each other’s feathers, but their hearts are one–with each other and with me and their dad. When they learn to fly, we will cheer as they leave the nest… but hope they behave as homing pigeons as often as possible. Even if it’s only to do laundry on weekends during college. Someday, when my chicks have all flown the coop, Bruce and I will be referred to as “empty nesters.” When that time comes, we might just start flying south for the winter.
Nests. So many cliche’s, yet so perfectly accurate.