Saturday, March 26, 2011

Behold the birds and birds’ nests

“Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they?” Mathew 6:26 KJV

A March windstorm has displaced a good-sized birds’ nest from its lofty, once secure place in the sprawling elm on my front yard. A very strong gust must have toppled it.

Scooping this sturdy abode into my hands and examining it, I concluded that probably a family of robins or cardinals had been the occupants.

Delicately constructed with mostly organic ingredients, this circular one-room home was made with massive blades of dried buffalo grass, a conglomeration of twigs, sticks strands of alfalfa, dried out corn husks, cottonwood leaves and mud.

There’s bird spit sown in everywhere, applied as an adhesive, although, now invisible.

Along with all the natural elements is a mix-match of man-made stuff - litter woven in. Studying the materials of the nest builder, to whom I am by now feeling akin, I marvel at how resourceful and forgiving nature sometimes can be.

There are three dirty swatches of yellow and blue fiberglass insulation - most likely from a construction site…

…a shred of plastic from someone’s grocery sack,

…a tangled mass of human hair, maybe from a women’s hair brush,

…some purple and pink dryer lint,

…and part of a plastic ring from somebody’s six-pack.

There’s a tiredness about the nest – a sublime fatigue that I can’t quite get past. I try to imagine the subtext buried deep within – the goings on from last season…

… enduring endless early March days after a long flight north from southern latitudes…

…building a place to stay in temperatures just above freezing,

…singing breeding songs with the winter flock,

…filling the air with joyous sounds that, as a lubricant, releases winter’s frigid hold and invite spring’s return.

My narrow focus leads me to the porch where I lovingly place the fallen nest, as a war-torn soldier, on an empty plant stand. I don’t think the wind will blow it away here, but I provisionally place a heavy rock in its empty shell – just in case. I’m saving the discarded nest for a time, as I always seem to do.

There’s something deep down inside of me that ponders this pitiful artifact: the forces that built it, the way it withstood nature, the mournful litter strung through it, the life it once bore and at last its fatal fall.

I like to think this nest was a good home for a bird family – a place where one cohesive unit ate together, slept together, rose together, sang together, celebrated together, grew together cried together, loved together, weathered storms together – stayed together. I want to believe it was place of honor and respect.

We can only hope for as much.

2011 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Bosco Damon is a national award-winning columnist. Her writing has won first-place in competitions of the National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women. In the 2009 and 2010 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took five first-place awards. To contact Paula, email, follow her blog at and find her on FaceBook.

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