We called her Phoebe Anne; though what she called herself I couldn’t say.
Every spring, from parts unknown, she showed up at our front door with her lover in tow. As spring rains gave way to lush green, Phoebe Anne occupied her days preparing for the anticipated arrival of her new clutch.
Mornings echoed her melodic ‘fee-bee…fee-bee’, the signature song of the Eastern Phoebe, which filled our wooded homestead from morning’s first rays until the last ribbon of light slipped over the night horizon.
Sitting as still as any curious spectator could, we watched from our wooden porch swing, trying ever so hard to control the creaking that would cause a frenzied retreat to the safety of the telephone wire attached to the corner of the porch roof. Nevertheless, even when we failed Phoebe Anne was never gone long before instinct drew her back to her nest.
Through the lazy summer months we delighted in watching as she devoted herself to nurturing her little ones from hatchlings to fledglings, and finally to the day the last of her brood took to the wing. Each fall found her nest empty and abandoned. Each new spring the cycle began again.
When we left our home in Michigan to head west, we brought with us one of her empty nests, carefully packed with love. It remains in my collection of bird things.
I hadn’t given any thought to that little bird in years until recent musings about my own empty nest brought her to mind.
Phoebe Anne, like all birds, was destined to instinctively repeat her nesting cycle until the day she died. It’s not quite the same for us human moms. For us child-rearing is not so much cyclical as it is linear. There is of course the repetition through the stages of development for each child. But as a whole human mothering moves along a linear path toward the day the last ‘little birdie’ takes to the wing. Our nest is destined to be home to only one clutch, and once the last child reaches adulthood, our nest is “empty”.
Overused doesn’t begin to describe my view of the “empty nest” cliché, not to mention the doomsday nature of the phrase “empty nest syndrome” or “facing the empty nest”. Still I can’t deny the very real shift in my personal cosmos as the youngest of my offspring is preparing to walk down the aisle and move to ‘Elsewhere’ with her new husband.
In all fairness this moment didn’t sneak up on me. I have actually invested considerable thought and contemplation over the past few years as I looked ahead toward the inevitable. I knew I would need a plan.
I still don’t have things all mapped out, but here’s what I do know: A nest is a wondrous thing; a commonplace artifact of nature, yet embodying incredible ingenuity and industry. Such a thing is too valuable to toss aside.
My basic plan is this: I must ‘repurpose’ my nest. And that self-mandate must begin with a new vision —one that re-focuses my own ingenuity and industry toward the journey ahead.
So stay tuned. You’re not going to want to miss it. Because, with the Lord’s help, it’s gonna be good!
You can hear Phoebe’s song here: