In my book, "The Four Walls of My Freedom", I wrote about the solitary lifestyle of constant caregiving. I wrote about watching, fascinated, a family of birds make their home in our front door lamp:
Outside our front door in Ottawa, we had a black wrought-iron openwork light fixture. Each spring, a pair of tiny sparrowlike birds called redpolls came to nest in our lamp. The first year they came, all their bits of straw and string simply fell through the mesh onto the ground. Annoyed by the mess, we swept up and thought nothing more of it until one day, there on the ground lay two tiny, broken bright blue eggs. I wept a little, berating myself for not understanding their simple need to have a safe nest for their offspring.
The next year when we heard their distinctive chirps at the door, Jim cut some bits of cedar and created a floor o the base of the lamp. Nest building began in earnest, and soon there were four tiny eggs tucked up amongst downy roan feathers. That year, I watched as the mum kept her eggs warm and the father worried nearby. The eggs eventually hatched into a noisy quartet of open beaks and soon enough, they were ready to fly. I sat an entire day, watching in suspenseful anticipation as every redpoll in the area arrived on our pine tree to begin "training" with the youngsters. By turns, each bird would fly to the top of the lamp, perch there for a second and fly off to the nearby branch. The young birds had a tricky rite of passage: they had to fly inside the lamp and exit through the a narrow passage at the top of the ironwork. By dusk, all the birds had left the nest and we could finally turn on the light and resume our life without our temporary tenants.
These birds, living in my midst, nurtured by us and by the rest of the flock, gave me a certain antidote against loneliness. I had genuine curiosity about the life in my garden and most certainly, felt "some minute, divine spark inside me." By this time I had given up on any idea of justice or natural order in the world. Contained in my garden, I thought, there is transcendence; there is grace. I began to think that peeling potatoes, raking leaves and mixing cakes were all a sort of prayer. I began to understand that to be free, I had to have an antidote to despair. (pgs 84-85)
Yesterday morning, we were reading the newspapers when Jim whispered, "Do you hear that?" We stopped and listened. It was an unusual, but familiar chirp outside our window. "Could it be?...." I breathed. We looked into our pine tree and there, among the bushes was a pair of tiny birds - one with a red breast. We opened the door carefully and there, on the ground, lay a few tiny bits of string along with a few pine needles. Jim went out onto the lawn in just his dressing gown and slippers - he collected some cedar branches from the hedge and carefully placed them into the lamp. This time, there would be no broken eggs and hopefully, we would have the privilege of witnessing the birth of a new family at our door.
Nurturing life and helping to create a safe and warm nest IS a powerful antidote to loneliness. That I know.