What the Nest Taught Me


I didn’t even see it until I backed out of the driveway. Maybe the van nudged the nearby tree just enough to push it out. Maybe it was already there, though it didn’t have a squished appearance that would indicate it’d been run over.

Since I was leaving, and on a timeline, I called my daughter and had her run out to inspect what looked to be a well-formed nest, toppled over now, lying in my van’s path of the driveway. I hoped it was empty, and she confirmed that it was before carefully setting it on the front steps for later.

When later came, I bent down to get a closer look, and indeed, it looked to be an abandoned nest.

What the Nest Taught Me

What the Nest Taught Me

What had caused the birds to leave? Had its babies grown and flown? Or had something else prompt an urgent relocation — perhaps the loudness of our household bursting through the front doors to take in the long-awaited spring weather?

I may never know. What I do know is that while nests have always been something of a curiosity to me, this one struck me in a new way. Perhaps because it seemed so fresh, I couldn’t help but think of the little creatures who’d fashioned such a vessel, this twigged crater meant to harbor new life.

Some of the twigs were brown; others, newer, greener. It was splendid, really, this thing from nature that looked so refined.

When I posted a photo of the nest on Facebook, a friend commented: “I’m always fascinated by birds’ nests, especially the smaller birds – hummingbird nests are beautiful and awe-inspiring! I wouldn’t even know how to begin to fashion all these twigs and threads into a home, but all of these little bird-brains know exactly what to do. They’re a testament to persistence! Thanks for sharing a wonderful reminder of life.”

“I agree,” I wrote back. “To think that they did this twig by twig, feather by feather, beak to grass blade. I agree that the bird-brains might have something on us, by their work ethic and tenacity! And all for the preservation of the bird species. Nature is fascinating if we take time to regard it. I’ll admit, I don’t always, but then one fine day a nest falls onto my path, and I must stop and admire.”

Later, I reflected on that theme of persistence and how it relates to the faith life. We don’t always know where we’re heading, do we? Well, we know the destination, but it’s hard to see sometimes what exactly we’re doing as we fashion our world, detail by detail, sometimes almost as if by rote, and definitely by some compulsion we sense but can’t completely wrap our “bird brains” around.

Being a city girl, I don’t have a millions chances to sit and reflect on nature, and yet whenever I do, it seems nature always teaches me a little something about my relationship with God.

What the birds have told me this week, through revealing their nest (whether they wanted to or not) is that I must keep going, keep bringing in each offering of love, one by one, step by step, even when I can’t see the beautiful thing that is going to result; the lovely life-giving thing that will harbor something — maybe a hurting soul, maybe a grieving heart.

Someday, we’ll all experience a forced exit. We cannot cling to this life or our work forever. But as long as we’re given this day, this vantage point, these tools, and whatever insight with which we’ve been blessed, we must do this work, and if God really resides in our heart, perhaps sing a little song while we go, minute by minute, dedicating ourselves to that beautiful thing that urgently demands our time and attention: life and what we’re here to do.

Copyright 2013 Roxane Salonen


About Author

Roxane B. Salonen, a wife and mother of five from Fargo, N.D., is an award-winning children’s author and freelance writer who also enjoys Catholic radio hosting and speaking. Roxane co-authored former Planned Parenthood manager Ramona Trevino’s memoir, Redeemed by Grace. Her work is featured on "Peace Garden Passage" at her website, roxanesalonen.com


  1. Meg Matenaer on

    Roxane, this was so beautiful, and what I so very much needed to hear today. God spoke to me through your beautiful article–thank you so very much. God bless!

    • Roxane B. Salonen on

      Meg, oh, I am so happy to hear that! It definitely was God but I am glad to be that vessel for you, and to know you were blessed. And now I’m blessed in turn. 🙂

  2. Roxane – I found this article so moving. As one who’s “nest” will soon be empty, it’s quite emotional to ponder each little “twig” over the years and to pray about how they will be rearranged soon. Thanks sweetie!

    • Roxane B. Salonen on

      Lisa, this adds a whole new dimension to my post! I’m thinking that I’m going to need to revisit my words in a few years when my nest begins emptying. We are just starting the process with our oldest heading into his senior year next year. But after that, we’ll lose one every couple of years for a while, and at some point, the forced exit will be ours to face. I hope I can come to you then and say, “Lisa, how did you do it?” 🙂 I’m glad my piece affected you in a (hopefully) meaningful way! Thanks for giving me the space to share it!

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