"I fear that a world made of gifts cannot coexist with a world made of commodities."- Robin Wall Kimmerer
Along the path nearest to the rivers edge I find first two, later three and eventually five nests just a short radius from one another. They are in plain sight now as tender new leaves are just beginning to appear on the branches they rest in. It has become my favorite renewal place this spring, an area where I go in the late afternoons to connect to the pace of nature, to listen to the rushing river water and to open my vision to other-than-my-own-concerns. It is my vital refuge.
I note a large velvety bumblebee above my head hovering around a scraggly elm tree. Swallows fly-catching over the river come swiftly in and out of view. Beavers have been at work at various points, their telltale teeth marks on the cut branches piled up in semi-orderly heaps. Russian- olive trees are greening out and I observe their teeny buds which will soon open into delicate yellow flowers -offering aroma therapy for the sniffer and the soul.
Each nest differs, some more solidly formed than others. One nest looks to have a piece of something dangling at its base. It flutters in the afternoon breeze like a Tibetan prayer flag below the well contructed nest. (Though this prayer may be made of plastic.) Another nest is loosely constructed and looks rather like a miniature version of the beavers cut sticks piled beneath it. This one is just above my eye level, I marvel at the individual size, regularity and placement of the tiny sticks. Each and every twig is nearly identical. What does it take to find all of these dozens of precisely similar pieces? How many trips back and forth through the woods would a bird make to create this fragile shelter?
April 14th, Good Friday and it is almost 80 degrees today. I take off my sneakers and stand on the wet sand at waters edge. It is cool on my feet and immediately, I exhale into the simple earthy pleasure of it. The rushing water sounds make me smile. Winter is clearly over and thankfully the cycle of newness continues once again. The river is unusually high now after many months of being pretty much a sandbar, it laps up on my toes. This river is no less sacred to me than the Ganges is to the people of India. I love it and hate that it has been compromised. Dammed up, north of Albuquerque, controlled by the water authorities for use downstream. Good for agriculture sure but I resent that no water is allocated for the river. This river, the Rio Grande, is not considered in calculated equations as a living spirit, only as a resource; not something of value in and of itself. Once upon a time, the Rio Grande would naturally flood in the spring. All the forested areas along the banks would receive water from the run off of snowmelt and rain, filling the banks to overflowing. The cottonwood trees would have wet roots and a place to nurture young seedlings when their cottony covered seeds floated down to the earth. Water, tree, bird, nest, egg. Which comes first?
Perhaps the connections between all things was more obvious a century ago. When I think about the nests and how closely related they are to the trees they are built within, I am wonderstruck. Is the bird aware of the relationship between twig and tree? Does the water know the potential for new growth that it is offering to the river banks? We do not learn to consider all things as having a consciousness, other than animals, we tend to think of everything else, plants and minerals, as inanimate. I do not believe this is so, there is far too much evidence to the contrary. Plants do respond to the environment just as we do to toxicity, love, nurturing. Before the industrial revolution, we may have been living closer to the land, to our food sources and to nature. But does that mean we were any more conscious of the connections between all life forms? I like to think so.
April 15th I am back again to visit the five nests. I check them out, two in a Russian -olive, one in a fruit-bearing mulberry, a fourth, the one with the flag attached, is higher up in another mulberry tree. And the fifth one, nearest to the waters edge, is in a scrubby something-of-a- tree with small thin green leaves. No signs of life in the nests yet. I am also a bit concerned because I have just read a report:
"The bird population in Vermont's forests has declined 14.2 percent over 25 years, largely due to several factors, including invasive species, climate change, and the natural cycle of maturing forests, scientists with the Vermont Center for Ecostudies say."
They say birds have been evolving for 100 million years. I hope they stay with us, I believe they have much to teach us. Reading about their intelligence in The Genius of Birds, I am not at all surprised. I live with a canary and I am impressed everyday by his song skills, his ever alert ways, his bright-eyed attention to me when I come near to his cage. I sense that he communicates with me in ever so subtle ways. We are friends.
April 16th, Easter morning. I will return again to the place of renewal. I am a hopeful artisan witnessing nature, my greatest teacher, create.