Saturday, May 29, 2010


There’s a bird’s nest on my porch. It sits in a little nook on top of a column, just under the roof. Nests are kind of amazing when you think about it. It’s inconceivable to me how something with no hands can get twigs and grass and leaves to hold that shape – sitting in a tree, no less. This nest is your standard issue brown-basket model, with some clear packing tape hanging off one side.

Two baby birds hatched a little over a week ago. The mother comes back and forth, back and forth, all day long dropping worms into their squawking mouths. Last Monday they were helpless, tiny, hideous-looking creatures, all beak and opaque eyes. Today – less than one week later – they’re gone.

The first one flew away yesterday. Today, the other one was standing on the edge of the nest ready to go. I’m not even exaggerating when I say they seemed to double in size overnight. (I don’t know the Weight Watcher’s point value of worms, but I’d venture a guess that it’s on the high side.)

It’s springtime. Birds and bees abound. I know there is nothing especially remarkable about a bird laying eggs, eggs hatching, baby birds flying away. Except that it is unbelievably captivating to witness.

I sit on the porch in the late afternoon and try and read my book. I get about three sentences in and I hear Mama fly into the nest. The babies squeal: More, more, we want more of whatever it is you have for us. Mama gives them a little exasperated look and flies off to provide for them. How many times does she do that in a day? A hundred? A thousand?

My bathroom contractors parade in and out of the house and if Mama shows up when they’re on the porch, I point up to the nest. We all silently watch this miraculously ordinary process take place before us. It leaves everyone a little speechless, but happy, too.

“Do birds only build nests when they lay eggs?” Scott mused during dinner tonight. “I wonder how the mother feels. Her babies are gone. Does she just see them in the yard now and say, ‘Hey, there’s a good worm by the garage!’”

Me, I wonder if Mama’s time with them seems as short to her as it does to me. She’s working like a dog so on some level she has to be relieved, but two-weeks-and-they’re-out-the-door -- that seems really quick, even in birdland.

When Scott suggested Mama was now going through Empty Nest Syndrome, I had to leave the table to keep from spitting my food out with laughter. His timing was perfect. Not just for the joke itself, but it was the exact right time to wrench me from dwelling on that fact that, as much as I try to dismiss it, all we’re really doing here, us Mamas, is getting our babies ready to go.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, this was a good one! You and I are on the same bird-watching planet. I've been writing a short story about two birds in a nest (based on a real life incident.) I love your last line about Mamas. Lovely to read your writing about nature and nurture. xo