There is an empty blue jay nest outside my bathroom window. I see it every time I walk in the door. A rush of emotion always accompanies the glimpse I get in my usual state of busyness.
Several months ago, in mid Spring, I had watched with excited interest as a couple of blue jays continued to return to this particular tree. I could imagine them discussing the pros and cons and exclaiming over the gorgeous view of East Bay. Within a few days, construction began on their nest. It began with sticks placed messily across the crotch of the branches. This was followed by smaller grass, pine needles, pieces of paper, lengths of string and mud. The female would sit inside the nest shaping it with her breast as she tirelessly turned in a clockwise motion to smooth it out perfectly. The male returned time after time with more mud or grass. At last it was finished and they moved in. Before long, there were four brown-spotted greenish eggs. The couple would take turns warming the eggs and flying off to feed. I was delighted with my “birds-eye view” of their little home.
One morning I was awakened by the frightened cries of my blue jay family. I ran to the bathroom window in time to see a squirrel reaching for the nest. Both birds were darting at the squirrel frantically trying to frighten it away. It was not bothered by them so I had to help. I have a balcony off my bedroom and it is only a matter of feet from the tree with the nest. All I had to do was open the door quickly and yell “shoo,” and the squirrel was gone. The blue jays left also and I was concerned about their eventual return. It took over half an hour for them to actually sit in the nest again. I breathed a sigh of relief.
We went through a rainy spell and I watched the mother bird sit in her nest steadfastly. She was drenched and the tree would rock back and forth, threatening to rid itself of the nest. I began to realize how important the survival of this little bird family was to me. Above our bedroom is an office with its own balcony. It is right above the one in my bedroom. Occasionally, when both birds were away from the nest, I would look down into it from above. I would count the eggs and breathe a sigh of relief if all appeared to be well. Anyone who visited our home, was invited to come upstairs and take a look through the bathroom window. All seemed impressed with the close proximity and unobstructed view. I felt a little special that they would choose a location so close to our house.
I returned home one day and was greeted by the same raucous cries that meant trouble. When I reached the window, all I could see was a huge, black raven. It was standing on the nest while the blue jays cried from nearby trees. They were helpless and this big bird knew it. I frightened it away, but had no idea how long the standoff had occurred before I arrived. I waited for my bird family to return but it didn’t happen. They abandoned their nest. Three little eggs remained making the whole drama more upsetting to me.
The end of this story is bittersweet. The blue jays moved to another tree and must have raised at least one family successfully because I would see them throughout the summer and now into the fall. The three little eggs became a delicious snack for that original gray squirrel. I happened to witness it gleefully, but appreciatively popping the eggs, one at a time into its mouth. The blue jay couple have visited their old nest. They peer down into it, look as if they might grab the long string of paper they wove into the outside of it, but fly away as if they know they have to start over from scratch.
For twenty-one years, I’ve been consumed with tending my nest, and as the mother blue jay, taken on every challenge with unwavering focus and devotion. The “empty nest” metaphor is so commonly used, yet, I’ve just now been struck with the full impact of its significance. Recently we put our youngest child, our baby, on an airplane to Denmark for one year. She is a competent seventeen-year-old who chose to spend her senior year of high school as a Rotary exchange student. My emotions are mixed. I grieve not having one more year with her as I had planned, but I’m proud and happy that my little bird was ready to leave the nest and fly on her own. Regardless of how I feel, the nest is empty and I’m facing major changes.
We tend to let ourselves get too busy to the point that we give up all of our energy focusing on others, especially family. So often I’ve suggested in my writing, the importance of focusing on our own needs and retreating to regain peace of mind and connect with spirit. It’s time to take my own advice and step into the peace and serenity which has always been the backdrop of my busy life.