Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Empty Nest

A bird's nest is not only a work of art, it's a work of love, lust and great patience. I think that's why in some species, it is THE mating ritual. The male bird will painstakingly gather materials for the nest -- soft things, durable things, flexible things -- and weave an impossible bowl out of these little bits. I tried it once. It was terribly, terribly difficult and my creation in the end was a horrible, gap-toothed, twiggy, lopsided, ouch-y mess. I don't think even the trashiest bird would think of laying an egg in there! But then, I was never a nest-builder, real or figurative.

In some of those animal documentaries, the male would spend days lovingly crafting a comfortable place to lay and hatch eggs and then the female of his choice would critique his creation. If she liked it, if she thought he did good, she would mate with him, but if she was at all displeased, she'd peck his nest to bits. Spitting in the eye would be less damaging to the soul, I should think.

But no matter how much effort went into building the nest, no matter how many happy moments the young couple had there, no matter how many offspring there were or how they fared, when the kids are gone, so are the parents and the nest is truly empty. The eaves of our ranch house is littered with many of them. Being the Great Recycler, I keep them there, in case some slacker bird wanted to plagiarize one, but I guess birds aren't like that.

Big Dog and I spent the weekend helping his niece move into her freshman college dorm. Well, actually, her parents moved her in and we were just hanging around as amused bystanders. It was quite a scene on campus, with cars and people and moving carts all over the place. Parents hauling giant television sets, kids bringing ATVs, and of course, tons of tears as parents loosened their grip on their kids.

"They'll be crying all the way home," Big Dog said of his sister and her husband. It was the end of an emotional week and a hyper-emotional weekend.
"Yeah. And then, when they get home, it'll be worse," I added, imagining how empty their house, their nest might feel without their bubbly, vivacious daughter.

Birds don't fret. They build their nest to raise their young and when that job is over, the parents abandon the nest as eagerly (I think) as their children do. Human parents could definitely learn a thing or two from the birds.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been there and done that. Installing my daughters in the college dorm amidst the bussle of mass moving. I was one of the gruff ones that said "Got your stuff, then I'll be off" and fled. And yes, cried all the way home in a confused mix of joy and sorrow.
And I have nests of welcome swallows on the veranda, beautifully woven teardrop nests of fairy warblers and scrub wrens. No, they are never used again by some homeless waif.
I have seen them working so hard to feed the hungry mouths. I have also seen them after the youngsters leave the nest either by instinct or pushed out by the parents. I have seen the hesitant youngsters perched on the washing line as the parents swoop by, either encouraging them or showing the tricks of flying. The young bird's clumsy attempts that barely got them back to their perch, and the adults patience as they tried again.
I can easily imagine the birds joy when their hatchlings soared into the sky. Anthropomorphic projection?, perhaps. But to deny they may feel the same may be human arrogance. With no way of knowing, I choose to think they feel the same.
Paul

7:23 AM  
Blogger bad-dog said...

Very touching comments. you have so much to say. do you have a site where I can read more?

3:32 PM  

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