The Nest

I spotted an unusual lump on the ground at the base of a Ponderosa pine tree about 30 feet away. It was slightly grayer than the carpet of dry pine needles around it. I had to investigate.

It was a nest – a marvel of structural engineering unlike any of the other nests I have found on my walks. The others were smaller, fragile, and often damaged. This nest was sturdy, and had survived the fall from the tree. It’s about six inches across, two inches high on one side and three inches high on the other. A groove on the short side has a small hole through to the inside that marks where the nest had been built onto a support branch. The nest cavity is three and a half inches across, a perfect circle, and about two inches deep. It could comfortably hold a tennis ball, with wiggle room.

The nest is woven of small twigs, grass, moss, some leaves of sage, and a length of 1/8-inch wide white grosgrain ribbon. Mud plasters the inside. The remnant of a layer of softer nesting material in the bottom holds small pieces of eggshell. Light blue eggshell with pale tan freckles – robin eggs. Known for their orange-red breasts (brighter in the male than the female), the American Robin (Turdus migratorius) is a member of the thrush family. “Thrush” means “wanderer.” Robins frequent this park, and are the inspiration for folk wisdom such as “the early bird catches the worm.”

What made this sturdy nest fall from the tree? What happened to the eggs? Did the chicks fledge? Where were the parents? My heart went out to the female robin who had built this nest. Was there a story here?

I took the nest home and sat in meditation, holding it. I asked to speak to the robin who had built it. After a time (I sensed channels being linked), I heard a sweet, high-pitched “Hello.”

I greeted Ms. Robin and complimented her on her beautiful nest. “I marvel at its construction,” I said, and asked if it was her first nest.

“Thank you,” she said, “I worked very hard on it. I wanted to build a safe, secure place for my eggs.” She added, “I’ve built several nests. Sometimes I can use them for more than one year.”

I asked why she chose that particular tree.

“It was in a good location. Many of our kind are there, and there is much food to eat. Many good worms and insects and fruit. At times the people leave food too, but that is not good to eat.”

Did she lay more than one clutch of eggs?

“No, just one in this nest. It turned out to not be the best location. Many crows and squirrels. My new one is farther away from all the activity.”

I asked if the eggs hatched and the chicks fledged.

“Yes, three eggs, laid early in the season. My mate and I cared for the fledglings. One died, two flew.”

I wondered if she knew what caused the nest to fall. Ms. Robin did not know for sure. She was hunting for food, and when she returned the nest had fallen. I felt there was something deeper she did not want to say, and honored her by not pressing. I told her I was sorry it had fallen.

“It’s alright,” she said. “It happens. I am building another.”

I sensed she was ready to leave, and asked if she had a message for me to share with people. Ms. Robin said, “Tell them to keep our open spaces, our food sources. Many have noticed our numbers are declining. We are a symbol to you, of freedom and flight, of diligence and nurturance. We also are the early warning of things out of balance. Look to us. As it passes with the winged ones, so it will pass with the two-leggeds. We are all one.”

I thanked Ms. Robin for talking with me. Her nest now sits on my altar and holds new eggs of polished stones. It reminds me of the gift of life and beauty, and how fragile is the balance we hold in this world of many species.

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"Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms." - George Eliot
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." - Gandhi
"There is little that separates humans from other sentient beings – we all feel pain, we all feel joy, we all deeply crave to be alive and live freely, and we all share this planet together." - attributed to Gandhi
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