I sit in social isolation, listening to the TV repeating the endless mantra ‘Stay at home: Protect the NHS, protect lives’.
Looking out of the window I see a blackbird making her home. She hops in a diagonal half-shy but determined way, towards the little pile of garden weeds that I discarded onto the mossy pillowed lawn. Grass that grew in flower beds, is twisted up with the odd dandelion and last year’s hollow stems. The blackbird cocks her head on one side and rummages through the pile with her beak, selecting building material carefully for qualities only she knows, for length or strength, flexibility or texture. A few moments later she’s off, flying low to the densest growth of ivy in the hedge.
I’ve seen many a blackbird’s nest abandoned in the winter, each one a marvel of construction. A thatch of twisted grass often contains an odd bit of plastic string of trace of tinsel. I have never seen the action of construction itself. I imagine this blackbird within her ivy hide-out, testing the strength of a hedge branch, the angle of an intersection, the stability of the base layer for her nest, then beginning the task of weaving into this the grasses that only yesterday I tugged by hand from their entangled places where I wanted flowers to grow.
I knew the resistance of the grass to my pulling, now the blackbird chooses the right strand of grass, pulls it apart from the pile. I feel part of the work of construction, a team player in the warp and weft of life.
Soon the blackbird starts selecting moss. Moss that I raked from the lawn last autumn, soft, pliable, springy like a mattress. I’ve held a blackbird’s nest in my hands, felt the cup inside the thatch, marvelled at the layer of bedding and the wattle and daub firmness of its walls. I know the blackbird needs mud as a finishing layer and sure enough, there she is right by the garden pond.
Now she must ‘stay at home’, sitting on her eggs until they hatch. My focus is to stay watchful and help her avoid the cat.
Little did I suspect that protecting the NHS would also be protecting a blackbird’s nest.
I believe in a loving God who can give me the strength I need to bear what only I must bear, if I reach inwards and outwards towards love. Want and need are different ‘The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want…’
Stop, the fence is a stop. Stop stopper stopping the flow of nature. A straight line full stop fence of wood brown, dead brown, dull brown chemical soaked larch lap erected by the guy next door. Stop at the dense green ivy clad living, moving, growing flowing hedge on the other side. Vision stop screens garden framed, growth tamed, cut, clipped, controlled but cluttered with all that loves living. Dandelions and daisies deal with the mowing by hunkering their leaves down low. They shoot up flowers that sprinkle the lawn in clusters like constellations. Bees know no boundaries to their nectar cups. My eyes rise above the fence and hedge, to the trees breeze blown branches. Endless motion, constant flux, greening by the day. Beyond to the boundless sky. Calm, gentle gradual growth, the trill of the robin, the ripple of water, the dapple of light. A sudden stabbing sound hits the air my eyes swing to the branches above the blackbirds nest Two birds join in a fit of righteous anger. I look out to see three magpies approaching… the hedge where the nest is built. Opening the door is enough to frighten them away. They weave through the branches of the birch trees pursued by fierce protective blackbirds. Difference in size. Now the blackbird cock stands sentinel on a branch that overlooks the nest…
Blackbird in tune Moss pillows up in the lawn And grass grows in the flower bed. On hands and knees I pull up weeds, Feel their hold on life, tug them apart from their strangling grasp, Assert my preference on where plants grow. In Covid-19 crisis, I want control.
Later with cup in hand, I watch a blackbird Sift through hair thin stems and Soft moss bedding.
She pulls apart my little pile of discarded vegetation. What I do not want she needs badly. Needs enough to risk the cat. Weeds that were killed at my hand become a bed of life.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “
Matthew 6:25-27 New International Version (NIV)