Some days, I walk around for half the day before I know what I'll write here. Today, after my class, after my lunch break, after my office hours, I walked from my office house to the village post office. As I stepped from a college road onto one of our gravel paths, I looked up at the trees that flank that junction of asphalt and gravel. In the spring, these trees are usually glorious. I am, as you know, full of low-level dread that our rapid-cycling weather will disrupt that glory, come May. The trees look as though they've developed some kind of growth that they shouldn't have and that they've already lost, to some extent--their berries are present already (surely too soon?), and they're desiccated, freeze-dried.
One of these trees has a low-hanging branch that often hits me in the face, because some people never learn. Today, I managed to dodge the branch, and as I looked over my right shoulder, I noticed the birds' nest just above my head in one of the other trees. "Nesting," I thought. Nesting: the word came across my brain like one of the weird hallucinations De Quincey has in that text we're still reading in one of my courses. I spent the rest of the day hoping to pick up scraps and bits, twigs and grasses and small pieces of cloth and maybe even a shiny thing or two, with which to construct a snug and stylish little resting-place for your thoughts.
Things haven't quite worked out that way, because my desires to indulge my meditative impulses never quite work out that way. Perhaps "meditative impulses," as a phrase, captures the oxymoronic nature of these desires. And so I'm afraid that this piece might itself be one of those tantalizingly unfinished scraps, a group of twigs you might tuck into some crevice in some branch, in the hopes that you'll be able to make something of it later. It also might not be a real loss if you forget where you left it.
I have long thought that cardinals were kind of prosaic birds. They're the state bird for my state and every state around here. I've just seen them everywhere for so long that I've stopped seeing them. But one thing I have to hand cardinals: they have a terrific song. The cardinal is the bird that sounds as though it's saying "birdie! birdie! birdie!" If you go to the cardinal page at Cornell's All About Birds and listen to the recording of cardinals' songs, you'll hear what I mean.
I bring up cardinals because last year, some cardinals flirted with the idea of building a nest in the tangle of grapevine and weeds occupying the corner of the dilapidated greenhouse behind my garage. This tangle is readily visible from the patio door in my kitchen, and if I stood very, very still, I could watch the birds making reconaissance missions into the thick of the vines. Not so long ago, my landlord took out some aggression on the rampant vegetation around my garage: he absolutely decimated one of the holly trees outside the house, and he cut the grapevine back to short stumps. The birds have popped in a few times in the past couple of weeks to scope the scene and decide on its feasibility. As I was doing dishes on Saturday, I looked over my left shoulder and saw a bird just sitting among those vine stumps, looking around.
I want so much to make some significant remark about nesting, both literally and figuratively, and yet I'm suddenly debilitatingly tired. Perhaps my efforts to institute a reasonable bedtime for myself are, in fact, paying off. Perhaps whatever sugar high I derived from the food I fed my seminarians, in honor of tomorrow's holiday, has just fallen away. Perhaps the hot milk, my sleep aid of choice, has simply done its work. Whatever's doing it, I'm rapidly losing my ability to focus on any kind of nesting but that which involves my getting further (and warmer) under these covers. I'll reemerge and we'll resume tomorrow.
source for today's image: Cornell's online collection of images from the Hill Collection of bird books (this nest was taken 19 May 1879, according to the text that accompanies its image).