I just returned from a late spring weekend on Cape Cod. The birds are active! I've always loved identifying birds and the Cape is a great place to bird watch, especially in the spring. There is an amazing Osprey nest at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, and you can literally watch the Mamma Osprey sitting on her nest. LIVE Osprey Cam.
Second to my love of the birds themselves are their nests. I'm always fascinated by how different species construct the safe haven where they lay their eggs and patiently attend to them. Ospreys are knows for their big, bold nests- they add in all kinds of crazy 'junk'- from fishing nets to even (one year at the museum) a fishing pole! Robin's nests are often perfectly round and camouflaged deep in the center of a bush or shrub. And, Ovenbirds (who call out a rapid-fire: Teacher, Teacher, Teacher!!) of the Northern Forests, craft their nests right on the ground in the shape of dutch ovens. Yes, their nests have a bottom and a top! As I write this I can hear the whistle outside my window of excited birdsong on this sultry and fragrant spring evening.
A nest is a safe, nurturing, protected place for bird's eggs to incubate, develop, be nurtured and eventually, hatch. I love how often (but certainly not always) the parents choose a very well protected or concealed location (think under the eaves or way up high) that is safe from predators etc. So it's almost like a nest within a nest, a double-layer of refuge. We too as humans, inhabit relationships, jobs, friendships and environments that are protective, nurturing and sustaining...for a certain period of time. But the paradox of nests is that they are not meant to be inhabited forever. There comes a time when the chicks do hatch and the fledglings learn to fly. There comes a time to leave the nest! Bald Eagle parents will literally destroy a nest right out from under the young Eagles if they don't leave on their own! How is that for a bird parent's version of 'tough love'?
As humans, we get comfortable, we get cozy and settled in and we don't always recognize when it's time for a change. We don't always notice when something new is 'wanting to emerge'. Like the Eagle parents, sometimes it takes an outside force to 'kick us out of the nest'. Our cozy nest might take the form of the same job we've been in for a while that has become stagnant or even literally our own home space that needs some remodeling or a face-lift. We become so comfortable with 'what is' that without some outside force pushing in, we maintain the status quo. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but something to contemplate.
As a yoga teacher, I often know it's time for a change when class or retreat numbers begin to dwindle. That thing (insert your own) has run it's course. It doesn't necessarily mean it's 'over and done' for good, but that it just might need a redesign. When it's become easy and comfortable (read uninspiring) it's time to jump out of the nest and build a new one. Life is such a creative process- things are asking to be born and to die all the time. But are we awake or asleep to them? One of my favorite Sea-tales is an old Inuit folktale called Skeleton Woman. It's all about the Life-Death-Life Cycle of things. And, this could be anything. It speaks to how if we are wise, if we are listening, we will know and honor the cyclic nature of life. We can tune into any situation, relationship or creative endeavor and ask in any given moment...'What is being born right now?' and also, 'What is needing to die or change in some way?' Read The Skeleton Woman Story Here.
Spring is a time I become acutely aware of the cycles of life. Things are constantly being born and things are already passing (like the apple trees on my street that were in their full glory just a week ago). Life moves, life changes, life evolves and we can choose to evolve with it, or we can stay 'safe' in our cozy nests, even if they have become a little too small and quite dirty! It takes courage to take that leap of faith, to change or to grow something new. It's often easier to just shut our eyes and go back to sleep. I challenge you, at this incredibly lush and radically evolving time of year, to contemplate what that leap of faith might be for you. Spread your wings and fly! It just might be worth the ride.
Contemplations to Deepen Your Practice:
* What is your favorite 'nest' of the moment? Where do you feel protected, nourished, safe and comfortable?
* Is your nest feeling too big, too small or just right? Is it time to expand in some area of your life, to leave a well-worn and familiar nest or are you just now creating something new and wonderful?
* What is holding you back from flight? Check in with any fears, doubts or insecurities.
* Are there any parts of your life (career, relationships, spirituality) that feel stagnant or like they have run their course? Could you make a change or upgrade that would support your growth and expansion?
* What is wanting to be born in this moment and what is wanting to release or die?
For Yoga Teachers/Asana Suggestions:
Try a class focused on playful bird poses such as Crow, Crane Pigeon, Eagle, or Heron. Poses that emulate flight are also fun, like arm balances or Warrior III with arms (wings) spread wide. End class with the deeply restorative pose 'Nest Pose' (reclining bound angle with a bolster).
Sweet Darkness by David Whyte
When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your womb
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
from The House of Belonging
“I do not live happily or comfortably
With the cleverness of our times.
The talk is all about computers,
The news is all about bombs and blood.
This morning, in the fresh field,
I came upon a hidden nest.
It held four warm, speckled eggs.
I touched them.
Then went away softly,
Having felt something more wonderful
Than all the electricity of New York City.”
― Mary Oliver, Evidence: Poems
The Oven Bird
BY ROBERT FROST
There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal-fall is past
When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.
As always, I'd love to hear from you! Please comment by hitting the Comments Button below. And, join me this summer at Sky Meadow for The Wild Green Heart of Summer Retreat in Vermont's lush Northeast Kingdom.