I am horrible at keeping plants alive. Almost all of them meet the same ugly fate after they have been under my care for an extended period of time. They dry up, the leaves turn brown, and eventually, the life inside of them withers away. I am a plant killer. There, I said it. Presently, I’m trying extremely hard to keep two hanging baskets on our front porch alive. So far, so good.
Days ago, I headed outside to water their thirsty soil. As I lowered the geranium from its hanger, a small wren rustled the still green leaves and made an escape toward our dogwood tree. I set the basket down on the porch and then folded back a few of the wide leaves, looking through the foliage from various vantage points. My eyes quickly spotted what I was looking for – a simple nest tucked away therein.
It was quite remarkable. This earthen bowl was intricately woven together by threads of straw, bent twigs, bits of mulch, and a blanket of white fur resting on the wood floor. Nestled within the curved edges were three delicate eggs, speckled and pale. It is no wonder birds sing the loveliest tunes. Their work is honorable and inspiring. They are masters of balancing art and function as they build their simple nests with the hope that the lives held within may thrive.
While I examined this bird’s home, I thought about how little I know about the actual construction of a house, as in nada. Humanity has shifted away from individuals mastering many of the basics for survival. We know so little about building our own homes, procuring our own food, and clothing our own bodies. Instead, we’ve turned our attention to earning a paycheck so that we may outsource a good portion of these ventures. I can’t help but wonder if we lost something valuable in this transition.
My most meaningful moments are often tied to helping the life around me and the life within me thrive. I find these moments while singing “Country Roads” to Parker just before his eyelids fall heavy with sleep. I find them as my hands pick red, ripe tomatoes from Jamie’s garden. I can taste the refreshing bruschetta they will soon become as I walk back through dewy grass with a couple in each hand. I find them while I exchange a handful of old blueberries for a still warm egg from our chicken coop. I find them as I sit on my front porch swing while the rain pours down around me, watering the plants I’ve left to wilt. I find them as I teach the boys how to make overnight oats, and as I clip lavender hydrangea blooms and dip their stems in a mason jar filled will cold water. These simple acts are full of life. They are sacred.
These days, it is easy to confuse living with having. Lifestyles require a host of needs and endless wants. We seek out bigger houses, shinier cars, fancier phones. We feel pushed to work longer and harder so that we may obtain more or better stuff. We are left with less time to enjoy the goods we work so hard to purchase. Eventually, we are not the owners of our belongings; instead, our belongings begin to own us. The consumer becomes consumed. We hardly whistle a tune while we labor away each day. We feel worn and weary and empty when we come home to our overflowing houses.
The complexity of modern life is exhausting. We have a finite number of minutes within each day and so many roles to fill, so many tasks to complete. We live on the edge of sanity, if we are lucky. A more simple way of living feels like the answer I’m looking for. Staring at the wren’s nest, my home starts to feel a bit too large, a bit too full of stuff. I wonder what meaning lies in our too full schedules, in our too full rooms. I feel a rush of envy as I behold the tiny nest surrounding this wren’s most precious possessions.
Maybe living is more about flying light, just as the birds do. Maybe the art of thriving is rooted in simplicity.
Would our tune sound as lovely as a Mama bird’s if we embraced the joys of a more simple nest?