The nest loosened from the crutch of a branch, sailed on the back of a gust, to land upon the boulevard. Far from the tree, it lay empty, in a discarded heap.
A hammering wind pounded at the city’s core, splitting and tossing everything that wasn’t nailed down. Sheltered inside her home, a woman sat at a computer. She read the words that came across the screen. “A real rip-snorter,” her friend wrote on chat.“ I’ve already brewed my morning coffee and poured it into a thermos. Just can’t function without coffee.”
The woman smiled in silent agreement. First World Problems.
Throughout the lower mainland, people hunkered inside and watched through candle lit windows as the earth heaved and trees upended before their eyes. Splinters of debris fell upon the streets; tree limbs hit the ground, scattered askew like victims of a crime scene.
She sat front row, safe within the darkness of a home and listened as the wind howled outside the window. She saw the towering evergreens bend and accept fury. Temper, temper, she silently scolded. The blast rattled the window panes.
Storms didn’t worry her anymore. She had lived through many. There was something edgy in the bluster. As the gusts gathered momentum, she pulled a blanket higher to cover her shoulders. Tucked in, she wasn’t afraid. As the maniacal fury shook the window panes, she sighed. It will pass.
She had sensed the wind’s approach, felt the electricity deep within her bones, had noted the eerie silence that hung in mid-air. Far away, somewhere over the ocean, the wind’s muffled howls announced a supernatural force. With a huff and a puff, the winds unleashed. Afterwards, a hush settled upon the land, false comfort from an untrustworthy and sinister phantom’s whisper.
Once upon a time she had rocked her babies to sleep as the wind blew outside their window. Frightened, they asked in turn, “ Mama, will it blow us away?” Her hands tucked each child closer, arms brought them nearer to heartbeat; their fear calmed by a steady rhythm. And she changed the story. They learned that big, bad wolves can be tamed and that it’s wise to straighten and face a storm with brick strength. And they knew her love was constant.
Outside her home, the evergreen branches shuddered, cowered under the force of the wind. Snug, she waited for the storm to pass.
They always do. She understood storms; their patterns so predictable. While the center unraveled, broke apart and nicked that which stood in its path; she kept calm in the knowledge that this one held no lasting power. Faith comforted her as she drifted to sleep protected by gentle dreams.
It was the chirping that woke her. Sunlight streamed through glass. As her sleepy eyes opened, she understood there was some truth to words, those clichéd daily mantras of positivity that arrived to her inbox. Yes, yes, the sun shines after the storm and true, tomorrow’s a new day. There was no need to attempt a conversion; she clung to hope. There was no choice.
In a sunny room high above the street, she surveyed the storm’s aftermath, the messy beauty left. Beyond the window, a bird’s nest lay in disarray.
She wanted to touch it, keep it. The nest symbolized a home, a place of protection and love. At that thought, she paused. Instinctively, one hand reached to cover her heart. What was it about a discarded nest that caught her eye? How could she ever sanely explain the need to protect such a simple yet complex object?
To know this woman, you’d understand. Born beneath a shield of loyalty, an invisible string circled around her, included those she loved, slip knotted by others that came before. Guardians of hope and love, shoulder to shoulder, family united, they circled.
Hers was never a life of entitlement; it was a life of enough. She lived simply, feathering her nest with bits of beauty and heartfelt devotion. Flawed objects intrigued her and once she heard their stories , a precious connection made it near impossible to let them go. Protective, she took care to nurture for she understood loss. You had to leave her.
Go and get it. Swiftly, she crossed the street, hoped the neighbor wouldn’t peek through the shutters and see her, a grown woman standing on the boulevard, bent over an object. Would he even notice? It seemed no one was home anymore. When did the street become so silent? Was it when the children left?
Carefully she cupped the nest. Gently she placed it into a discarded cardboard box. A temporary place, she mused. Something so humble deserves a grander setting. Her probing fingers turned it over; she felt twigs snap beneath her touch. She marveled at the nest’s intricate construction, strong yet fragile. One section had torn away.
The nest had belonged to an enterprising crow. Tiny dark feathers lined the hollow of the cup. Tufts of spun animal hair padded one turn of the nest’s edge. Rabbit, she wondered? A long length of string was woven in between thin twigs. Strands of tinsel glittered and peeked from between smatterings of mud. Beautiful in all of its ugliness, the nest had been carefully curated. It was a home to warm the eggs and coddle the fledglings that it had once housed.
How earnest, she thought. How sincere the want to nurture, how it clutches and pulls at one’s heart to be both resourceful and creative, to make a protective space, a home.
At the thought of home she paused and looked off into the distance. She recalled one home. It was long ago. For a time, she had lived with her grandfather, a silent, hidden away Scot. After he graced her with a second floor bedroom, he had all but disappeared to the attic. To this day, she could not recall his voice. He had made room for her, shown a hint of kindness and a touch of love.
In her humble opinion, this was the loveliest room in the house. Along an outer wall was a window with a wide angled view of the backyard. It wasn’t much of a yard. Grandfather had portioned off a rectangular patch to plant vegetables, constructed a compost box, nearby. There were few flowers planted except for Lily of the Valley. In the center of the yard was a majestic cherry tree. Its sturdy branches touched her windowpane.
At first she was afraid to sleep in the room. From behind the curtains came scratching sounds. It was the tree summoning her.
She recalled how she had stood at the window and watched the cherry tree change with the seasons. Positioned high above the ground, it was as if she had sprouted wings. From this viewpoint, she looked down upon the gnarled branches. The tree brought gifts to behold.
It was a wondrous time to be a child within this house. There was music and laughter. Sometimes, a family member would place her high into the cherry tree and run away. As she clung, cheek pressed to bark, she learned patience. He always returned to swing her around until her feet touched ground.
Winter was her favourite season. Vulnerable, the tree allowed a look deep within its angles. On one such occasion she had spied an abandoned nest.
And then one morning in early spring, a bird returned to the nest. Fascinated she watched as it dipped and fluttered to finally reveal three eggs. The eggs reminded her of the ocean, how the waters blended, washed and mixed from dark to the lightest shade of blue.
Under a blanket of stars she had drifted to sleep. Songs threaded through dreams, the notes traveled up through the clouds and beyond delighting the stars. The stalwart cherry tree stood, a sentry outside her window.
Snap shot memories surface on a whim, the grainy Polaroid images of long ago spent in a small house on a quiet street. She remembered how the wind sang as it passed through the cherry tree’s branches. Sometimes the notes rang soft as a lullaby. Other times, the notes were ominous, a slow, steady drumbeat of noise.
Now she stands, on a storm strewn street. In her hands is an empty and broken nest. She thinks, there is a certain beauty and strength here.
The woman yearns to return to her earliest memory of love, to a gentler time, to a moment when the window frame lifted to allow a peek at the world. Beyond the glass, life beckoned. She aches to rewrite her story. It was in that space of endless time, that she had felt at home.
She lifts the nest from the worn box and places it upon a glass pedestal plate, something a wee bit fancy. The woven twigs, the simple bits and bobs that fill it suggest an understated elegance. She sets the pedestal onto a worn whitewashed sideboard.
The nest was once strong and protective. This fact is not lost on her. Once upon a time it was a home. She notices the length of thick string that circles round. She resists an urge to pull the string loose.
Here on the sideboard the nest will sit. People wonder, why keep it? She smiles. Of course its true that the sun loves the moon. It will always return to kiss and tame the darkness. There is magic in the universe and beauty in the broken. The nest reminds her of all that truly matters in a life.
It’s also true that hope endures. The solid cherry tree still stands on guard in the middle of a backyard. She imagines that a gentle soul inhabits the room with the best view. She prays that the child is loved. The branches continue to tap on the windowpane. As the seasons change, the tree leaves gifts for another child to behold.