Three weekends ago, my friend Mike came into my house via the side door saying, “Did you know you have a bird’s nest above this door?” I said that it had been there and empty since I moved in. He said, “Well, it’s not empty now, I just scared a little bird out of it.” And sure enough, when I asked him to check, there were eggs in the nest. We were worried the smell of his fingers touching the eggs might keep the mother away, but soon she was happily sitting the nest, keeping her eggs warm. On Sunday, after Mike left to return to Minneapolis, I pulled out a step stool and snapped the shot, above, of the little speckled eggs.
That weekend, we were marvelling at the early spring that had arrived in the midwest. We made a point to start using the front door, in order to cause less disturbance to the little bird family nesting in the side awning. And we made friends with the neighbor’s cats, who do love to sun on my porch and rest in the shade beneath my front bushes. One beautiful tiger cat was especially friendly, lying at our feet and stretching to expose his belly to be scratched.
Every day I’ve watched the progress of life in the little nest. I haven’t wanted to get too close, since any movement at the side of the house sent the mama bird flying away to distract attention from the nest. I’ve exclusively used the front door, even when arriving home after dark, fumbling with my key and crossing the pitch black living room to find a light switch. Finally, last night, I noticed a change. Tiny movements in the nest, tiny chirps – the little chicklets had hatched. I plan to take the afternoon off work tomorrow, and thought it might be a good time to attempt a photo of the hatchlings to go with the one, above, of the eggs.
This morning, I woke and went to the gym for my TRX class. It was a hard class, and I returned home physically wrung out. I turned on the tea kettle to boil water for my morning coffee, and sat down at my computer to put the finishing touches on today’s blog entry. Suddenly, there was a loud noise at the side of the house, much like someone attempting to break down the side door. My heart leapt into action, hammering hard and fast in a fear response. I ran to the side door, thinking that whomever was trying to break into my house might go away if they realized I was still inside.
The sight that greeted me was not what I expected. The tiger cat looked up at me from a crouched position, obviously startled in the middle of something. And that’s when I thought of the nest. Opening the screen door, I was greeted by the sight of five little birdlings, gasping their final breaths on the cement at my feet, the nest that had sheltered them hanging like a straw beard from the awning above them.
Death took all but one within seconds of their fall. The last and largest of the hatchlings lived for maybe two minutes. There was absolutely nothing I could do, except witness the little thing’s passing.
For some reason, I really wanted those little birdlets to live. I’ve never watched a nest before, never been so engaged before in this process, not even as a child. I wondered how I would be able to bring myself to dispose of their little bodies. Luckily, I was spared that task by the arrival of Tom, the facilities groundskeeper who tends my lawn. He is such a kind-hearted man that though it saddened him, too, he agreed to do the grisly clean up.
But even in my sadness, I can’t hold it against the tiger cat. He was just being his cat self. Next time I see him, I’ll reach down and rub his belly the way he likes me to. And I’ll be reminded that sometimes our role in the day is to be a witness to this amazing world and to the life that inhabits it. We get so caught up in being actors in our lives, deciding and speaking and moving. Sometimes simply, silently, witnessing is necessary, too. Necessary for us and for our world.