Bird’s Nests

One of the wonders of the earth to show a child is a bird’s nest. Sonya and I were walking down our street some time ago and a bird’s nest was in the grass near the curb. A storm had blown it out of a tree, I guessed. She picked it up and remarked how magnificent it was. I thought little of her comment at first, until she stopped me to show me the wonder of it.

This bird’s nest had mud on its bottom that could let it cling to the tree branches and also block moisture that could come up from the bottom. The mud also allowed the first twig placements of the walls of the nest to have an initial sticking point. The exterior had multiple woven circles of small, but stiff rough twigs to create a tough wall of support and shield from the weather. The small interior floor space had a soft, finely placed pile of bluegrass, as soft as a baby’s blanket. In a sense it was a baby’s blanket, a gentle place to nestle several hatchlings.

Not until Sonya spoke the obvious was I really struck with a quiet form of amazement. By the way, amaze means to be struck by surprise. It kind of means that the figuring has been silenced and the heart is left to experience the effects. She said that the most wonderful reality is that the bird builds the nest without hands. Its intricacy is astounding, its complexity of materials a wonder. A human could hardly build it with hands. A bird doesn’t even have the brain to “think” it. Yet a bird does it.

Sonya gave me one of her bell jars and a small pedestal so I could take it to my office, where it has sat rather prominently for years. Sometimes I ask the people I get to counsel with if they have noticed the nest. Almost all have noticed it, and few have asked about it. I tell them the story in one form or another about the wonder of the nest. “A bird builds such a thing without hands,” I say, “and it does it with a ‘bird brain,’” which is a misapplied statement we use to refer to someone as dumb, or someone who doesn’t “get it.”

A bird builds a home without hands, following the flow of knowing without knowing, participating in the stream of how life works with a form of surrender, so to speak, that only requires the full participation of how something is created. There is a river of life that God owns; we can ride its currents but don’t own its ways. There is a life full of life that we can participate in without having to have control to experience it.

That is why we need to show the child life’s wonders. Not so much for the child, as much as for us, the ones who can become unavailable to amazement. So we can remember what it is like to experience life through the eyes of wonder, even through the eyes of our hearts. A child rides on the currents of the river, knowing full well that they don’t own its ways. But they do own its wonder.