How will you feather your nest?

On my windowsill sits a deep bird nest. Made of mud and straw its original location was in a lean-to barn on my parent’s farm. The bird who built the nest took advantage of a hanging roll of barbed wire—high up in the barn, isolated and relatively safe from prey. The perfect place to raise babies.

I never saw this nest in use—it sat for the years I visited or the time I briefly lived on the farm without any bird activity. It remained empty. And I stayed curious about who might have built it. An owl? Barn swallows? Some other type of bird? The nest and the barbed wire had both been there a very long time. When we sold the farm, I couldn’t resist taking the nest with me. It was a tiny piece of nature that belonged on the farm and somehow struck a deep chord within me.

Now I see the nest on my window sill and wonder about other things. I can’t imagine that the bird new anything about barbed wire. But having gotten hung up on it many times, I know that it can be effective. I wonder if the nest and its original barbed location are a metaphor for life and loss?

Loss comes with sharp edges; the pain and sorrow, longing and heartache, the deep sense of absence. And, the protectiveness of taking all the time one needs to sit inside the mystery of the life forever changed. In a time of mourning barbs of self-protection might be needed. These might look like giving oneself permission to say yes to something and then, when the time comes, declining after all.

Self-protection might also look like deep self-care. Practicing thoughtful attention to one’s own needs. Resting more, working less, playing when the mood strikes, and spending time in the welcoming silence of friendship. Self-protection might be better claimed as the self-care needed to attend to one’s wounds.

That’s where the nest comes in—a safe and comforting place to hunker down. A place to be with oneself in the full range of feelings without having to explain. A place for personal rituals; an altar to remember the one who died, the aroma and taste of comfort foods, the time to soak in memories. Maybe the nest is where a few mindful friends come in and provide care for you; doing laundry, grocery shopping, raking leaves or making meals. A nest is a place to pull in one’s energy and be present to just what is needed without harsh self-criticism or the effort of pushing one’s way through the time of loss.

Mourning the loss of a loved one is the perfect time to feather your nest with extra forms of comfort and care. What have you done to feather your nest?

* The photograph by the nest is of my mom, JoAnn and her dog Sparky.

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