After a week, I finally took it down out of the tree.
After a heavy rain storm, my children had noticed something dangling from the tree limb in the yard. When I told them it was a nest, they begged me to “fix it.” Taking a long stick, I managed to poke it back into place in the tree. A small whitish egg had miraculously not fallen out.
But the mother bird never returned. On my desk now, the nest seems sadly out of place, like a dead grandmother’s favorite hat sitting alone in its hat box. Looking closely, I can see the intricate work of the mother, with the heavier stick-like twigs forming the outer wall, and the softer, more delicate twigs and dry grasses at the center, forming two small egg impressions. A couple of tiny white feathers and a few dried flowerets have been woven into each egg’s place, which are touchingly off center.
But the saddest of all is the little white egg itself. When I pick it up, I am surprised at how cold it feels and how heavy. The shell is packed tight with new flesh probably only hours away from hatching. Through the translucent shell, I can see the wound up little body’s dark and light patches under the surface, and near the top is a pinkish odd shaped area. Turning the egg over in my hand, I notice, to my shock, a tiny little cross-hair crack.
Look I say to my daughter, it was beginning to hatch. Horrified, she refuses to listen and runs off shaking her head. And suddenly, I too am struck by the horror of it. To have gotten just so far and no more! To be just moments from bursting out into the light, and the awkward struggle snuffed out. Holding the tiny heavy egg in the center of my palm, its weight seems more serious than sad; more philosophical than emotional. The children, disturbed by the terrible implications of what is before them, ask me to explain why things like this happen. I fumble for an answer, knowing there is none, and tell them about nature’s laws and the expectancy of loss that’s built into them. but they seem unconvinced by the logic of it.
A couple of days have passed. Tomorrow my daughter is taking the nest and the egg to school to show her science teacher. The children seem to have made their peace now with the imperfect laws of nature. In the past two years, they have already lost a cousin and a grandmother. Their little hearts have already been broken, and the silence of the little egg seems okay to them now, I guess, compared with the silence, on Sundays, in the living room of my mother’s house.