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birds Black Hills hope nature nature therapy wildlife

Constellation of Hope

The sky’s the limit.

It may be early November, but something happened this past summer that I’d like to share with you. This July, as I jogged along the Forest Service road behind our house, my eyes scanned the colors blurring past my feet: brown, grays, and greens.

But every now and then, a new color flashed before my eyes. Pastel, yet neon in a clarion call for attention.

Blue.

Shards of color lay, fragmented and still, on the ground before me. Upon closer inspection, the irregular pieces revealed themselves: the broken pieces of a robin’s egg.

An intact robin’s nest

Even though I didn’t stop to pick up bits from that particular eggshell, knowing that if I did it would dissolve into smithereens in my pocket, I carried the image with me on my run and ever since. Later, I found more robin’s egg fragments and took their photo.

A robin’s eggshell fragments.

Looking at fragments of eggshells, a sense of loss upwells and spreads inside me: a tightness in the chest, an undefined sadness. The feeling that something’s shattered. Broken. Like the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme, there’s a sense of irreversibility. Nothing is going to put those pieces back together again.

It’s similar to the heartsick feeling I get when I think about this country and the rest of the world. How the losses are multiplying, every moment our daily lives and way of doing things broken. This virus has tested our humanity and mocked our struggles to stay connected in a time when being connected in conventional ways can be hazardous to your health.

Broken eggshell fragments can mean that the chick inside was lost, his/her potential disappeared. Never to be realized, winged flight just a dream.

As a wildlife technician in New Mexico, my job was to monitor nests around a birder’s paradise called Rattlesnake Springs. Sometimes, hatchlings in nests would make it to the age to fly (called the fledgling stage). Many times they wouldn’t.

There was something distinctive that stood out while observing nests: for the nests that failed, the predator (the main cause of failure) didn’t leave any trace of their dastardly deed behind (I know, I know…a snake or rat or coyote, etc., has to eat too). In other words, there weren’t any fragments as leftover evidence of the nest attack that had occurred. Just the opposite: for nests whose contents were observable (nests less than about twelve feet in the air that I could use a mirror mounted on a telescope to see what was inside), what I most commonly found was…

Emptiness.

Instead of devastation, shards of brokenness can mean that a nest has hope. In many bird nests, after a chick hatches, the parent will take the eggshell fragments and drop them somewhere away from the nest (like many songbirds do with their nestling’s poop) so as not to attract predators and to keep the nest clean.

This behavior is a kind of defense mechanism.

In this time of covid, within our own lives, by distancing, we have grown more physically apart, become little fragments scattered over the landscape so as not to implicate our “nest”. But fortunately, there is still hope for wholeness. All is not lost.

The eggshell fragments scattered on the path were blue-sky blue.

Blue…as in the color of UP.

The sky’s the limit.

And together, we can go there…

May you and yours…and a collective “all of ours” be blessed.

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