Friday, April 27, 2012

The Empty Nest: First Flight, First Night

Well, maybe the perspective of David to Goliath wasn’t quite this much, but to the baby phoebe which had just fluttered its wings for the first time, I must have seemed a giant.
One minute it and its siblings were snuggled in their nest on the rafters of our gazebo, and then in a sudden flight of passage they all pushed off, flapping untried wings in the air over my head. 

The others made it across to the rails on the other side, where they settled and absorbed their new identity as creatures of flight, but this one flapped straight down and landed at my feet.

The brave (or stunned) little guy faced me head on, not making a chirp, nor moving a teensy, fuzzy feather.
I secured the dog and considered how to help. Taking off from ground level seemed like a bigger task than baby phoebe was up to. My brother suggested I toss it up and give it chance to get some air under its wings, but as I drew near, it suddenly found its avian heartbeat and with a mighty flutter, rose to the rafters, where it sat for the next ten minutes.

One of the parents, apparently aware of the effort, brought it something to eat. Strengthened after a couple of feedings, the last of the babies flew off to the nearby woods, where for the rest of the afternoon, I heard the parents calling “Phoebe,” maybe giving some last minute parental instructions on “you’re a big bird now.”

As disgusted as I was getting with their annual takeover of our gazebo, and all their messy housekeeping (their nest must have been clean, but my floors were cluttered with bird poo), I felt sad this morning when I went out to check if anyone had returned—you know—maybe had to spend the first night back where it was safe and snuggly.

 But no. No little fuzzy faces peering over the rim. Just an empty mud-straw nest.

Finally, I say. I’m glad I don’t have to clean up after them or worry if my presence in MY gazebo is disturbing their egg-warming and chick-feedings. I can have my life and my gazebo all to myself.

My husband and I threaten to dismantle their nests so they can’t move back.But we never do.

Instead, each morning when I step outside, coffee in hand and absorb the new day, I first look to the gazebo—just in case—and then I pause to listen.

Perhaps I just might catch that high-pitched call, “Phoebe!” and know all is well.

Lord, I join my heart with other empty-nesters, happy to reclaim order, but always looking out for the sounds of well-being. We place our children in your hands. May you be a shield about them; may they hear your call directing the way to go, and may we entrust our parental hearts to your great keeping.


  1. Thank you for getting to the essence of my heart, Marcia. Your words brought me to tears, with my husband and daughter both working so far away, my house so empty and my heart aching for their return.

  2. I smiled while reading this entire post. We, too, have "babies" nestling in our 100 year old electrical box (no longer powered). I dread the day of their initial flight as an outdoor cat is a constant fixture on our metal that sits mere feet from the box. I pray strong and steady wings for the little chirpers. Your closing prayer also warmed the heart of this fellow empty nester.

  3. Beautifully written, Marcia. Empty nests are sad sights, yet we do nurture our young to be independent adults. Hard to let go, yet it would be hard to see them stay undeveloped and not reaching their full potential. Same with the the chicks.

    We have so many birds here, particularly the Canada Geese, which are very messy, I understand the issue of clean up. It seems nothing is perfect.