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Kathy Bradley - More than eggs in a nest

I noticed it, what at first appeared to be a matted, wadded up piece of spider web, as I started down the back steps. It was hanging from the dryer vent moving just slightly in the breeze. As I reached to pull it away I realized that it was a fragment of leaf attached to a thin twig attached to a larger twig stuffed inside the vent, not just dangling on the edge.
    I cocked my head for a better look and saw that the vent was completely filled with twigs. It was, in fact, a nest and as I gently scooped it out all I could see was the six loads of clothes I’d dried over the last few days and the conflagration that could have been Sandhill had the nest caught fire.
    The nest was about the size of a saucer and only about an inch deep at its center. The outer twigs fell away in my hands with a small poof of dust. Nestled in the hollow at the bottom were four tiny eggs. Tiny like a jelly bean. Tiny like a peanut. Tiny like a pearly button on a baby’s christening gown.
    Having touched the nest and contaminated it with my humanness, I knew — according to all the nature lore I’d learned as a child and which, admittedly, may or may not be true — that the mother bird, wherever she was, would now abandon the babies-in-process. What was probably closer to scientific actuality is that the eggs were old and the embryos inside were long dead.
    Months ago, in spring, I had sat on the deck and watched a little bird, a Carolina wren, dart in and out of the dryer vent. From a distance I’d not seen that she’d been carrying bits and pieces of nest to her new place of abode. I’d thought she was just engaging in the avian version of a real estate showing when what she was really doing was moving in. The mortgage had been signed, the electricity turned on, the change-of-address cards mailed.
    Too bad she hadn’t talked to the neighbors. I could have told her that central heat, in this case, wasn’t such a good idea. That the need for incubation aside, too much of a good thing can be deadly. That there is more to safety than isolation and darkness.
    Nestled in my cupped hands, what had been a perfect home — if only for a moment — was now nothing more than a bunch of tender twigs gone brittle in the lingering heat of a lingering summer. The chocolate brown of new shoots had faded to the dull gray of lint. The sap that had made them flexible had dried up like a creek bed in drought.
    I stood there staring for a few minutes. Eggs. Usually symbols of new life and beginnings, these four round balls of calcium carbonate contradicted all the myths and fairy tales and traditions. Instead, they had become a metaphor for the result of ignorance, haste, inattention. They had gone from being cradles to coffins.
    And as is always the case when I stop to consider the world revolving around me and the fact that it doesn’t really revolve around me, I realized how like that little Carolina wren we all are. We make choices based on limited information and later find ourselves stunned by the unavoidable results of those choices. We elevate comfort over safety and safety over breadth of experience and breadth of experience over loyalty and never even realize that its not elevation we’re reaching at all — that this life is not a staircase moving us ever higher, but a Ferris wheel looping us up and down in a never-ending circle.
    Something of great importance demanded my attention at that moment, so I laid the nest on the floor of the carport and went inside. That was two days ago. Since then I’ve been leaving home early, getting home late, suffering with the red eyes and runny nose and hacking cough of allergies and, in general, not paying much attention to anything other than myself.
    I have no idea if the nest is still there, if the mother is aware of her dispossession, if the eggs have been desecrated by some night-moving animal. I should know. But I don’t.
    And that, I have to admit, is as much a metaphor as anything else.

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