Monday, May 17, 2010
A Mama's Journal
Three weeks ago we discovered a bird's nest on our front porch. A mama junco was delighted with the dried flower arrangement that welcomes guests and felt herself welcomed, too. She laid four beautiful eggs. Pale green eggs with chocolate specks. Every day we pulled out the step ladder and peeked quietly, breathlessly into the swirl of twigs and grasses.
Just over a week later, the nestlings emerged. I lifted my little ones high to welcome the family. Baby juncos are not cute. They resemble pink worms with black fuzz. But there was something endearing about them, nonetheless. I took many pictures.
About this time it occurred to me that it might be fun to put together a little journal to record the growth of the nestlings. So I thought about it and jotted pertinent details on my calendar as we saw changes in the birds, hopeful that the journal would actually take shape when time permitted.
A few days ago I noticed that those juncos were about ready to burst from that nest. Their gray feathers had filled out daily, and there wasn't much room for the growing family. So last night I determined to pull together the journal. I printed a junco picture, designed a page for recording information and envisioned all sorts of darling flaps and pictures going into this magnificent folder that the children would complete.
This morning, with the pristine folder all ready to go, I appointed Drew to be the first birdwatcher. His task was to time how long it took for the mama bird to return to the nest with food for the nestlings. After a few minutes he came back. "She just kind of flew around and then left," was his helpful observation. We pulled out the step ladder, hoping to record some nestling activity instead. Up climbed Drew. He quickly came back down, his cheeks flushed. "They're gone."
I shoved Drew aside and charged up the ladder in disbelief. The spun straw encircled emptiness. I wanted to cry. My juncos were gone. I ran to the computer to research. Sure enough, it was time for them to leave. And I was only just ready for them. Their folder was finally ready, and I had found just the right picture, too. I even stayed up late to pull it together. Now the folder seemed ridiculous. Deflated, I had the kids fill in the details we could remember. But it seemed pathetic to start and end a whole journal in just one hour.
The kids saw the irony in our experience and actually thought it was kind of funny. But I felt a bit of an ache. I had really grown attached to that family. I had hefted many a child -- my own and others' -- to observe this beautiful display. I had watched the nest daily and updated friends and family with annoying regularity.
But I think the greatest ache came in realizing that I don't want to let this happen again. I don't want to plan for what's to come and jot down notes on what may be and think about what might be best. I don't want to wait until I find the best pictures or design the best flaps. I don't want to wait until time permits, until everything is all ready. Because when everything is in perfect order, it will be too late. The nest will be empty.
I'm a mama. I have four little nestlings. I happen to think that they're the most beautiful creatures in the world. I take many pictures and jot many notes. I have many hopes and dreams and goals. And I'm slowly learning to set perfectionism aside that I may take true delight in my precious nest. Right here, right now.