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– Nesting

May 13, 2013

monkey and sofia blog nesting headermonkey and sofia blog nesting

I’ve been thinking about ‘stuff’ this last week, stuff like things, possessions, things we own and fill our homes with.  I don’t know if this has to do with watching the little birds in the trees making their nests in the bird boxes but maybe it does.  The birds are so busy and single minded in their work, coming and going, popping in and out of their houses in some well worked-out relay.  I have no idea how it all happens between the birds but there seem to be pairs who decide on a particular bird box, in one case I wondered if they were the same couple who were here last year because that one of the boxes was inhabited while the others weren’t.  Anyway, they start work on their nests and I wondered if those who found an old nest in their chosen box, which just needed a bit of attention, were happier than those who had to start one from scratch.  I’m not sure because one couple spent all afternoon removing stuff from their newly acquired box so I can only imagine it was dirty or maybe badly made or from the wrong stuff.  Or perhaps the process of building the nest is a fundamental part of the preparation of laying and hatching eggs.  Anyhow, the perfection and simplicity of their efforts puts us to shame with all our excesses in nest building and all its social and cultural connotations.  Surely all anyone requires is a shelter that will protect us from the elements and which we can keep warm by basic means.  Birds must have some superior insulation in their feathers and their little scaly feet maybe don’t feel the cold but, even with a blazing fire, our nests are so out of scale with the necessary.

When we sold up and left our old home we sold virtually all our possessions too.  This was partly because we wanted to feel the lightness of not owning things but also, since we were going to be living in a van there wasn’t any space for more than the essentials.  Initially it did feel liberating to  know that everything we owned was in that van with us, but as time passed and the only door key we possessed was for the van we began to feel as if we had lost who we were.  It was a difficult and scary time, not being able to find where we wanted to be in order to settle again, so part of our unhappiness was due to that but it was frightening not to belong anywhere, not to have somewhere we could to go back to where we had friends who knew us.  People had said that we were brave when they heard of our plans but we didn’t understand what they meant or why they would think it.  For us, bravery hadn’t come into it, not at that stage anyway.  It was much later after a lot more experiences that I came to realise that the bravery friends spoke of was about our daring to abandon our carefully constructed life and the determination we had in trying to make a new one.

As time passes and our years begin to add up I get the feeling that our nests become lined with the experiences and values which we continue to gather until a certain time in life and then there are no more new ones to add.  We are happy with what kind of person we turned out to be and without knowing it we set about ensuring that nothing new comes along to challenge our perception or to make us understand that life still has to be lived, right up until we die.  We have our values, beliefs, experiences and houses full of stuff which reinforce for us who we are.  Actually it was this defining which made us feel as though we were suffocating, that we were being shaped by our past and it was weighing us down.  The painful, in our case, process of shedding was not something we planned, as with so much of our journey we groped our way along and tried to understand what felt right or didn’t.  In hindsight what we were trying to do seems so obvious but we felt we were blindly responding to our emotions, apparently it always turns out easier to see the patterns and to understand things in retrospect.

Now we have our simply appointed hut and are very happy, even though the list of things it doesn’t have far exceeds the list of things which it has.  We have learned to keep life alive, to expect to be amazed everyday by where we are and the things we see and experience and to know that not having the answers to everything is perfectly acceptable.

Our nests should be places which shelter us and keep us safe.  They shouldn’t be places which we turn into a fortress of values and certainties which we then have to protect.

This fortress idea came to me as I’m re reading Austerlitz by WG Sebald in which there is mention of the building of fortifications….really fascinating:

…….it had been forgotten that the largest fortifications will attract the largest enemy forces and that the more you entrench yourself the more you must remain on the defensive……..

We may not be defending our homes against invaders but when ideas or theories new to us come our way we shouldn’t automatically feel the need to leap to defend our old, dearly held views.  Maybe sometimes there’ll be a new perspective for us to consider and then to accommodate amongst our constantly and healthily shifting values which can be really exciting.  Anyway, our nests should be all we need to keep us cosy and not stuffed with things we don’t need.  Happily even the smallest nests have room for new thoughts.



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