One of the perks of being self-employed is that I get to make my own office hours. If I'm not teaching, the rest of my work can be done with just me and laptop; which means I can work almost anywhere.
In an effort to find quiet space in my house, somewhere that I could find solace -- a place to be able to write in peace, I decided to move outside. Our back deck looks over a canopy of oaks stretching from our home down the canyon toward the beach. I created a luxurious outdoor room with a super comfy sectional sofa and overstuffed pillows. I stocked it with cozy blankets (heated ones for cold and foggy mornings) and music (Sonos: I love you). My outdoor living room gets nuclear amounts of sunshine at certain parts of the day, so we hung some extra long outdoor drapes that can pull across part of the deck to shade the patio area.
These drapes are central to this story, so let me tell you a little more about them. They are tall - like taller than if you stood on a bar stool and tried to hang them. (How do I know? I did that.) They required an extra tall ladder to get them into place. They are outdoor curtains, so they are sturdy and strong (metal grommets keeping them on the rod) and they blow nicely in the wind, creating a soft rustling sound in the breeze.
A few weeks ago, I went to work outside and noticed grass and twigs all over the back deck. This is a second story back deck, far from grass and twigs, so the debris caught me off guard. It was all over the furniture, all over the deck, all over the blankets. And then I looked up: there was a nest. On TOP of the curtains. Balancing precariously on top of the grommeted edge.
This nest got me thinking: Why there? Why so high? Why in such a flimsy place?
My best guess is that they chose this place because it's predator free. It seems to be an extremely safe place to build a life. It's far from the reach of other animals and humans. It's tucked under the eves and sheltered from the sun. It's a great place to have kids and raise babies.
If the wind never blows.
And I thought about how I, as a human, do the same thing when I'm scared. When things are uncertain and life is scary, I don't put my nest low to the ground. I don't put myself in the path of predators. I avoid putting down roots in places where I might get hurt. When life is scary, I stop trusting God, humanity and life itself. I find the highest, most out of reach place to build my nest. I withdraw and refuse to get help.
The thing is: I'm just like these birds. I am so focused on being safe and eliminating danger, I forget to look at the foundation upon which I've built. I forget to look around at the temple of aloneness that I've created, to stop and check for stability. I forget that sometimes the wind blows and sometimes it's safer to be closer to the ground - or at least to build my foundation on something more stable than polyester and grommets. Sometimes it's safer to be more accessible to people around me. To rely on those I love.
Sometimes, our effort to eliminate danger is the exact thing that puts us in it.
Shortly after my discovery of the nest, we had a violent wind storm for three days. The drapes flapped in the wind and nest was reduced to twigs blowing in the breeze.
But that didn't stop the birds. The next calm day, the two birds started again and built their nest. Same place.
I have to admit, I was rooting for these birds. I checked every day for weeks: the nest was still there. And it was still there. And it was still there.
Until it wasn't.
The wind had blown it off again and there it sat, in tact, on the floor of my outdoor living room. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen (so beautiful that I took a picture of it -- the one above). There was a nice piece of twine rimming the nest, various oak twigs, long white hairs circling the inside and puffs of cottonwood seeds padding the bottom. But the thing that got me was the string of flowers that were woven into it, like a little bohemian masterpiece. The elegance of design was stunning.
This was not a make-shift ramshackle shanty that these birds built. No. It was a thing of beauty. It was a piece of art.
I hoped that the birds would rebuild again. I hoped that the wind would stop so that the eggs could be laid and the baby birds could be born.
I wanted a happy ending. I wanted to believe that something good would come out of this unstable commitment.
But the universe doesn't work in goods and bads. It just works in its own way, on it own time, with its own agenda. The nest fell and the eggs were laid without a nest on top of the drapes. And, well, you can guess the rest of the story.
The only refuge we can find in uncertainty is that life will always be uncertain. Life will always unfold as it does. The wind will come. Nests will fall. And if we put ourselves too far from the reach of those that we love (and those that we fear), we will fail.
- Want more? Sign up for my newsletter and get the blog emailed to you every Tuesday.
- Know another way-finder-soul-seeker who'd like this? Forward this to a friend.