The Nest

This past spring, a Mama Bird very inconveniently built her nest in a wreath that hung on my shed doors. As soon as I saw it, I groaned.

“We are literally surrounded by trees! THERE IS A FOREST BEHIND US! Of all places! Why on earth would she build it HERE?”

But she did. And she wasn’t delicate about it. For days, we watched her purposefully trek back and forth with long strands of grass and bits of mud and leaves. The work looked exhausting, but she was relentless and it wasn’t long before she had it ready. I didn’t want to scare her, but any time I could get close enough to check it out, I was in awe of the sturdiness and precision.  She had literally crafted this nest in preparation for her babies.

This nest that had started out as a complete and total nuisance to me became a source of daily fascination. Any attempts we made to go near the shed were met with loud, distressing chirps and vigilante-style protection by Mama Bird. She let you know immediately that you were venturing into her territory.  She would fly about 15-feet away, perch on a branch nearby and watch with unrelenting eyes until we retreated. Then back to the nest she flew. After all, there were eggs in there now.

My God. The eggs. Her future flock. The most vibrant and beautiful blue you’ve ever seen. They were so perfect they hardly looked real. How did nature manufacture such a deep and unique color? No wonder the stakes were so high for her. She had a lot to lose. Even casual onlookers who kept their distance were barely acceptable. She made that perfectly clear:  “Don’t come any closer. I’m not okay with it.”

I could hardly believe myself, the way I started talking to her, especially once those eggs had hatched and her babies were born. If I had to get something out of the shed, I’d walk up slowly and talk quietly and soothingly to her the whole way. “Hey Mama Bird. I see you. I see you guarding those beautiful babies. I’m not going to bother you or get too close. I just need to get something and then I’ll be out of your way. It’s okay. Your babies are safe. Ssshhh. I’ll only be a minute.”

Had I lost my mind? But I felt like I understood her. I didn’t want her thinking for one second that I was going to hurt her. Or them. If anything, I felt protective now and completely invested in how this whole thing was going to turn out.


One night during this time, a storm rolled in. I already told you– the spot she picked to build this nest was ridiculous. Way less than ideal. The roof line of the shed barely covered the wreath and nest, if at all. It was so exposed and out in the open. I had to suppose she may not have realized this until it was too late. She certainly couldn’t move it now. But this storm was intense. It was one of those spring thunderstorms where you can feel a charge in the atmosphere. Powerful gusts of wind. Branches bending and swaying. When the sky finally opened up, it was torrential.

The rain came down in sheets that night and I was beside myself. I stood quietly, watching out the window, so afraid for this Mama and her babies. I knew she was tough and would know what to do– it was literally in her nature to shelter and protect them. But still, all this wind and rain. I couldn’t bear the thought of something happening to them now.


I had read up on the nesting period of Robins. It took 13 days for eggs to hatch and another 7-10 for the babies to fly. She was only days away. Those babies were almost ready to leave the nest. I quietly cried at the window. She worked so hard to make that nest safe and strong. She laid those eggs. She sat with them, day and night. They had to make it through this storm. They just had to.

I fell asleep that night worried about the birds, and the next morning, I was almost afraid to look. Lo and behold, the sun was shining, and there sat Mama Bird. Strong and tall. Safe and sound. Proud. They had made it through the night. She and her babies were safe after the storm. She had made sure of it.

In the days that followed, we watched tender little birdies peek and poke their tiny feathered heads out of the nest. Mama would fly away to find bits of food and return to feed and care for them. I kept wondering– How long will they stay? Surely they won’t all fit in there much longer. How does this work? How does she know when they’re ready to fly and survive on their own?

But somehow, it seemed, they just know. And so does she. They both know.

And then one day, before I even realized what was happening, they were gone. The nest was empty. She had done her job. And now they would do theirs. Fly. Live. Explore.

Soar.

There’s so much for them to see and experience. Sure there will be storms for them, but they’ve watched the Mama. They know what to do. And there are lots of sunny days, too. So many sunny days.


A few weeks later, I was out near the shed and there on the ground lay the nest. Cautiously, I picked it up. It was solid as a rock. There’s nothing flimsy and weak about a nest built by a Mama Bird. It’s funny. If you look at the wreath now, you’d hardly know a whole family had once lived there. But I know. I look, and I see it, and I remember.

 

 

When We Look Back


_DSC1070

Years ago when the ink was barely dry on my heart wrenching divorce, I was in the very necessary stage of moping around the house and crying. A friend who had apparently grown weary of my lament, sent me a picture of a quadriplegic wounded warrior, lying in the crib with his new baby.

Ouch. Okay. I got it. I got the point. I understood the whole “I felt bad because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”

Dry your tears. Count your blessings. It could be worse. It could always be worse.

But the thing is, I needed that time. I needed to feel sad and grieve my loss. I needed to putter around and feel the heartbreak of everything I had lost. I wasn’t going to live in that space forever, but I needed to pass through it to get to the other side.

The other side is where I would find the gift of perspective. Perspective would show me how much better and beautiful life could still turn out to be– something I couldn’t see just yet.

Perspective is the gift of time and experience. 

Last week my daughter, along with thousands of other high school seniors across the country, found out that school is officially canceled for the rest of the year. While we suspected this might be the case, we were just barely holding onto the tiniest thread of hope that maybe… just maybe… things would end differently.

We weren’t ready for it to be over. She wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready.

I intentionally keep saying “we” and “us”, because it has occured to me over and over again that while this is primarily her loss, it’s my loss too.  She is my youngest. The baby.  I’ve championed her (and two other kids) through these years and dreamed of her success and accomplishments right alongside her. It’s the end of an era for her, but it’s the end of an era for me, too.

2020 graphic

One day she woke up and went to school, like it was any other day, never realizing it was actually her last day of high school forever.  It has left everything so unfinshed. Undone. Wanting. It feels like we’ve been reading this fantastic adventure about her life and suddenly the pages go blank. What happens? Where’s the rest of the story? Where are the pictures of Prom? The senior picnic? Signing yearbooks? What about hearing her name called and watching as she walks across the stage at graduation…the victorious culmination of all these years? Parts of the story are missing now and we’re trying to figure out how to write the ending. Somehow, a closing chapter needs to be written.

 


 

If it sounds dramatic, I’m okay with that.

It feels dramatic. 

For my daughter and others like her, the depth of time is much shallower in youth.  Each day, week, and month carry a lot more weight when there’s only been 17 or 18 years of living. There’s a post going around social media reminding us that boys barely out of high school left to go off to the Vietnam war and that’s how their senior year ended. It feels as though it’s meant to shame some sense into our modern-day seniors. And while I understand what’s trying to be said, I have to imagine those boys did not march off to war galantly that very day. Only perspective years later could show them the honor and value in their sacrifice.


So for today, as we navigate these tricky waters together, I steer clear talking of silver linings. She knows things could be worse.  And we’re all beyond grateful we have our health. But also, we are sad. There is loss. It is hard.

Someday, when we look back, when she looks back, I already have so much anticipation to hear what gifts time and experience will deliver. I think about her sitting in job interviews or talking to her own kids about perseverance, optimism, and making the best of a bad situation. After all, she’s part of the Class of 2020. The Year of the Quarantine.

Missing out on the second half of senior year will always sting a little, of course, and not yet, but someday it’s going to make her life richer in ways she can’t know today. It’s going to make her stronger in ways she won’t see tomorrow. It’s going to make her wiser in ways she can’t understand right now.

It’s also going to make for one hell of a story for the rest of her life. Take it from me, kid. I’ve got the time and experience and someday, you will too.

Wherever-you-go-go-with-all-your-heart-Class-4-580x386

 

Post Script for Emery Patricia~ You have been the best quarantine buddy a girl could ever ask for. You have braved these weird, scary, uncertain times with courage, stability, and humor that has us laughing every single day. You already knew how to do hard things, but now you can add “Canceled and Quarantined Senior Year” to the list.

“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can”~

You have. And you will. And now you’re off to go finish writing the rest of your story! Congratulations, Emery!