If a bird’s nest chance to be before thee in the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young;
Deuteronomy 22:6, JPS Tanakh 1917
The compassionate act for a hungry person of ancient times was to take only the eggs from a bird’s nest and leave the mother. This created benefits: humans had food and birds could again reproduce, making more human food.
Fortunately I can walk to a store open 24 hours every day and get a variety of foods to eat. I don’t need the eggs in the nest by my porch to satisfy my survival needs.
Cardinal nest by my door
The cardinal nesting by my side door probably is the one that tried to create a nest on my porch light. Hanging from this light fixture is the beautiful wind chime given to me by Kay so my son, whom I lost to a heroin overdose, could make it sing for me.
Perhaps the mother bird gave up when the door kept swinging open and shut, open and shut.
So she moved to the tree next to the porch. As close as she could get without the constant disturbance.
Her nest cradles two eggs. I enjoy seeing her as I walk by.
How did those eggs get out of her little body?
How does she know to sit on her eggs? The sea turtle lays her eggs and abandons them, returning to the sea.
How does she know to leave the eggs alone? If she were human, I imagine she’d be neurotically inspecting the eggs, rolling them around, listening for any sounds.
Nope. She sits calmly, quietly, still as stone. Watching. Waiting. Being.
She makes me wonder about my way of being as a mother. I was anxious, wanting everything to work out perfectly for my two offspring. Instead, one turned to drugs, and three years ago lost his life.
Blame and shame
Would I blame the bird if one of her eggs broke, or if a hatchling fell out of the nest, or if a creature ate one?
Today I found a broken robin’s egg on my driveway, not five feet from the tree where the cardinal nestles. This is life. These things happen. We do not control outcomes, especially with terrible illnesses like cancer and addiction.
James Hillman (American psychologist, 1926 –2011), in his book The Soul’s Code, calls the inordinate self-blame of grieving parents “the parental fallacy.” It is false to think we have enough control to manage every outcome. We can try and influence, yet ultimately, it is not up to us.
Maybe it’s a message
Perhaps this is why the cardinal tried to build a nest right above my son’s wind chime and the robin lost her baby.
Maybe it’s a message, like, “It’s not your fault, Mom. You did everything you could. Sometimes terrible things happen. And I am near you now, singing through the wind chime, watching you through the eyes of a bird nesting by your door.”
They are reminders to have compassion for myself, as I have compassion for these mother birds.