Empty Nest

Recently, I wrote about an aviary discovery that I made in The World Outside My Window.  From the moment, I spied that family of four birds, I took an unlikely interest in them.  I have never been much of a bird lover, but I found myself loving these birds.

This new-found love, that bordered on obsession, caught me by surprise.  I had not gone looking for them, but once I found them, I was all in.  Those birds became my birds.

Over the course of a few weeks, I checked on the birds throughout the day.  I took delight in watching the parents feed their two baby birds, carefully and lovingly, and it melted my heart when their mother or father took them protectively under their wings in their cozy nest.  I watched with a bit of anxiety as the baby birds began to venture out on the branches that housed their nest, even though one of their parents usually was close by to rescue them, if needed.

Each day, I watched the baby birds reach milestones, such as flying short distances from the safety of their nest out into the unknown world, much like I was there to witness my two daughters achieve their respective firsts.  First steps. First words. First day of school.  As the days passed, I began to notice that all four of the birds were spending more and more time away from the nest, but they always returned.  Then, one day, they didn’t.

One morning, as I began my daily ritual of checking in on the birds, I felt a knot develop in my stomach.  As I looked out the window, fully expecting to see the birds, my birds, I noticed that the nest was empty.  They were gone.

My surprise quickly gave way to rationalization, as I reminded myself that the early bird gets the worm.  So, I decided that they simply got an early start on the day.  When the birds had not returned to the nest by lunchtime, I went into full-blown denial, and the excuses mounted.  They are enjoying a nice day trip somewhere.  They are in another tree in the our yard or a neighbor’s yard. They are not really gone.  They will be back.  

The birds did not come back, though.  No matter how many times I looked out my daughter’s bedroom window hoping to see them, they were never there.  Yet, day after day, I found myself returning to their nest, and day after day, my hope turned into disappointment as soon as I saw their unoccupied piece of real estate.  When I finally accepted that the birds would not be back, I am only slightly embarrassed to admit that I cried over my feathered friends. I missed them.

The birds had moved on, and a few weeks after their departure, my daughters and I flew the coop, too.  We are now settling into a new house, and I am looking out new windows and taking in the sights and sounds of our new neighborhood.  My mind, though, keeps venturing back to those birds.  As I mentioned, I am not a bird watcher or bird aficionado, so, maybe, this has something to do with than more than merely a family of birds.

Sometimes, relationships begin unexpectedly and take root quickly, and before we know it, they are part of our daily lives.  We develop rituals and habits that help to nurture and strengthen these relationships, and we find comfort in them.  We check in on each other and on the relationship, and certain expectations and a level of trust develop.

Then, sometimes, the relationship begins to change, either before our very eyes or so subtly that we do not realize what is happening.  Either way, the relationship changes and is never the same.  Despite these changes, we retreat to our daily rituals and way of doing things, even though they no longer suit the situation at hand.  Even when the relationship has ended, we return to it, hoping, perhaps, that the one who left the relationship will return to it and to us.  Like the birds, though, the person and the relationship we still seek are gone, never to return.

It definitely is easier to replace birds than it is a loved one.  As with any ending, there is grief and the process of letting go.  While I am no stranger to either one, I still find myself on unfamiliar ground, as I create new rituals and habits in a new place without the support of a familiar relationship.  And without those birds. My birds.  

Maybe, this is just about a bunch of birds who captured my attention and heart for a few weeks this summer  Maybe, it is about a far more significant relationship that did the same for many seasons and years.  Maybe, it is about a bit of both.

That’s another story .   .  .



Categories: That's Another Story

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