On a warm spring morning I was walking to the rough cut hemlock pole barn to milk our small herd of goats. As I brushed past the blueberry bushes full of blossoms, a fully developed nest tucked in the branches caught my eye. I gently lowered the branch to examine the nest made of twigs, strands of goat hair, tufts of lamb’s wool and lined with light brown down feathers from our chickens. Four eggs as blue as the sky above rested inside. In a nearby pine tree the mother robin scolded me with her incessant chirping.
The sight was picture perfect so I ran back to the house to get my digital camera. I focused the camera above the nest to capture the moment. Daily I would check on the nest to check the progress of the eggs. After a couple of weeks I noticed tiny balls of feathers and was delighted to see that the eggs had indeed hatched. To my dismay, the next day they were gone. The nest was empty. The mother robin’s scolding was replaced with a deafening silence.
In the spring of the year we find many nests on our four acres of land located six miles north of Ridgway on route 948. The property is a haven for song birds such as robins, sparrows, cardinals, blue jays and finches. It’s bordered by hemlocks and Pennsylvania red pine, cherry and apple trees. Little Mill Creek flows behind our homestead, providing the birds with a running water source and wet land that is lush with earthworms.
Sometimes we find nests that are interrupted. One such nest resting on the ground underneath the boughs of the apple tree caught my eye. The beginnings of the fragile nest were made only from fine twigs interwoven together. Did a gust of strong wind blow it out of the tree? I gingerly picked it up and thought about nests that get interrupted.
In the late fall of 1960, when I was three years old my father passed away leaving me and my six siblings orphaned, bereft of parents. My mother suffered from mental illness and wasn’t able to parent her brood, leaving us in the care of an orphanage. I am grateful to have had a roof over my head, clothes to wear and food to eat. The separation from all that I knew was unbearable.
Like a fledgling from an interrupted nest, I grew up without parents to guide me and teach me how to fly. There were mishaps along the way. I experimented with drugs, married in my late teens and had four children. I relied on my God given instincts to parent my children.
When building nests eagles put thorns in them so the baby birds will be sure to leave the nest when they are older. Perhaps I had too many thorns in my nest because when my second daughter was seventeen she became pregnant. Her dad and I were recently divorced and she was reeling from the effects. This young girl didn’t seem to have a maternal bone in her body. She was sassy, independent and taking risks with her life. Her main concerns seemed to be friends, shopping for Aeropostale shirts, LEI jeans and having her make-up applied perfectly. Her black eyeliner shadowed the deep sadness in her brown eyes.
I had since remarried and my husband Cliff and I were renovating a house that had been abandoned by a divorced couple. The roof was leaking leaving the wallboard wet and moldy. The pipes were frozen due to the unpaid electric bill. Loads of dank wet wallboard needed removed from the structure. As we were gutting the house my thoughts would often wander to what my grandchild’s life would be like. Would she survive and if so, how? As I was gazing out the window, enjoying the peaceful scenery of pine trees that surrounded the property I noticed a robin building a nest on the windowsill. Why did she choose the open windowsill when she could have built the nest in the safe confines of the tree branches. Was this for me to see? My question brought to mind this scripture verse: “Even the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, Lord of hosts.” Psalm 84:3
As Cliff and I worked on the house, hanging wallpaper decorated with blackberry brambles, building the confederate blue stained pine kitchen cabinets, installing the century old porcelain green wood cook stove that would bake homemade loaves of bread and hanging the six light polished nickel chandelier that would light the eight foot long pine, trestle table I noticed blue eggs in the nest. It wasn’t long until there were four beaks wide open waiting for food. The mother diligently delivered the hungry baby birds fresh earthworms she pulled from the soil every day. Shortly thereafter, they outgrew the nest and left one by one.
It was then that I quit fretting about what my grandchild’s life would be like. If a bird by instinct knew how to care for her young, then I had faith that my daughter would be able to care for her baby. To my delight my daughter began gathering infant clothes. In her home economics class at school she made a patchwork pastel blanket quilted with pink yarn. We found a nice brown spindle crib at a yard sale and set it up in the corner of her bedroom. On a cold wintry day in January, Paige Elizabeth, my namesake, was born. In the beginning months her mom did well caring for her while finishing up her high school education and soon had an apartment of her own.
I’ve observed that when birds are learning to fly sometimes they fall out of the nests. When Paige was two and half years old she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Her mom and dad separated and weren’t able to care for her so we took her into our home to live. She had a little white toddler bed tucked away in the back bedroom that was painted lavender and trimmed with angelic border wallpaper. At night we would read books and say prayers together. We had fun cooking, playing, dancing, singing and sometimes crying together during the day.
It wasn’t long before her mom got on her feet and was able to care for her again. Paige is now ten years old and is nothing short of a miracle. We’ve had some frightening moments with the diabetes. One time her blood sugar dropped to 15 and she was rushed to the hospital in the ambulance. The medical staff pumped her full of sugar and when the nurse checked her blood sugar level and told the doctor she was ninety, Paige sat up on the bed and said “No I’m not, I’m only three.”
She now sports a bubble gum pink insulin pump and knows how to calculate carbohydrates. Her mom takes her to ballet, jazz and tap dance classes. Paige is a straight A student and received an award for creative writing in her fourth grade class. She loves to sing and when she visits me on weekends and vacations she always has a song in her heart.
“Be like a bird, that pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give away, beneath her and yet sings knowing she hath wings