Birds are all around my house and property.  Sparrows, robins, phoebes, wrens, finches, juncos, red wing blackbirds, bluebirds, and more.  Having them around infuses the area with light, cheerful energy and in their flight, my heart soars.  So, in honoring them, and truthfully just to bribe them to stay around, I feed them and house them.  Happy birds, happy me.

Some birds stay around all winter – the sparrows entrench themselves into one of the birdhouses making it an easy journey from the birdhouse to land on the feeders when I put seed out. Birdhouses dot the fencing that separates the pasture from the back yard; I place the houses in line of sight that bluebirds supposedly need – open escape, no trees for a predator to hover above.  I think there might be a rule for which direction to face the opening, but I haven’t made that my rule.  Likely because I can’t remember the rule.

In the fall, I walk the fence line and pull out the old nesting material – twigs, feathers stolen from the chicken coop, horsehair. Some nests are works of art; others are functional but not exactly beautiful.  Sparrows seem to be the functional type – pile twigs into the birdhouse, pad with leaves or bits of material, and go.  Hummingbirds and orioles are the artistes of the property.  Their nests are woven, and perch or hang from the trees, impervious to the elements, and if they do happen to fall to the ground, finding them is pure joy.  The windowsill in the summer kitchen attached to the barn is adorned with at least two found nests.

In early spring, I hang a holder with unbleached cotton out near the feeders, so the birds have readily available nesting material.  I also hang one near the hummingbird feeders under the eaves of the porch.  By midsummer, at least half of the nesting material is gone, which in and of itself makes me happy.  Comfortable nests, pampered eggs, new friends soon for me to meet.

Today I was standing looking out the kitchen door to the back yard where two sparrows each had cotton puffs in their beaks, and each headed for their respective houses.  The cotton was fluffy and soft, and I could imagine the cushioning of the floor of the new nests they were building.  Cushion, I thought, is what we need of our homes.  Softness in the receiving of us at the ends of our hard days.  Yes, a home should shelter us from the elements and keep us warm, but there is more.  A home is where we can plant ourselves in the space of the land on which we sit, make relationships with the creatures around us, and make ourselves integral into the small web of life that surrounds our homes.  A home is where we can venture a little way out, look around, and see how and when to step out into the bigger expanse.  And, if we choose not to venture, the cushion awaits us.

Our homes have held us in this past year of COVID.  We have hunkered down here, recuperated here, and laid our exhaustions to rest.  I hope I find you are managing well, and even thriving.  Take a few moments to reflect on your abodes.  My wish is that they serve you.  And my prayer for you is that you are in comfortable nests, safe havens, with deep cushioning.