The simplest and silliest of experiences often trigger insights into complex concepts and relationships. Remember how John Nash was inspired to develop a new concept of governing dynamics when discussing with fellow grad students at a bar how to approach a group of women? (see “A Beautiful Mind”) Let me share with you a recent “Aha!” experience.
On a breezy Saturday morning, my husband was digging up a patch of our back lawn so as to plant some tomato seedlings. You know that you need to relocate your tomato garden from one place to another if you’ve experienced “tomato blight” or simply because tomatoes – or so I’m told – quickly exhaust the soil of its nutrients. I, too, was in the back yard, hanging laundry and thinking about how my clothesline also needed to be relocated this year as the nearby trees have filled in with more branches and leaves and little sunshine now graces that plot of land.
With laundry basket tucked under my arm, I walked toward the back porch door when, all of a sudden, I saw a blur of movement overhead. It was a robin. You see, while we were traveling for 4 weeks, Mother Robin had decided to make part of our home, her home. Carefully, and with one piece of grass or twig at a time, she had constructed her nest on top of the light fixture outside the back porch. When we returned to introduce noise & motion to the area, the die had been cast – her eggs had already been laid inside and it was too late to relocate and start all over again.
As we entered or exited our back porch, we did so carefully, trying not to upset her, Sometimes we forgot, however, and the door slammed and Mother Robin would swoop away when we inadvertently invade her space. This time she had perched in the nearby Flowering Crabapple tree and I saw her anxiously waiting for us to “Go away!” As I brought out a hat to my husband, I again saw something streak past. She had returned to her nest and was feeding her newly hatched chicks! I was fascinated! Perhaps I was even gawking in wonder as she inserted her beak into those of her babies. She eyed me warily as I stood about 10 feet away, motionless. My husband, however, came strolling over to check out the scene and she didn’t quite like the looks of him – or so he said. She quickly ducked back over to the Crabapple. Perhaps if I waited a bit, standing still, making no noise? Still, Mother Robin would not return. Doesn’t she know that I mean her no harm?
That’s when it hit me. Doesn’t she know that I mean her no harm? All I wanted to do was to witness a special moment as she cared for her young. All I wanted was to see their cute little faces upturned. I was hoping to share a somewhat “sacred” practice – a mother providing so that her little ones would thrive. Did I want to interfere? Challenge her feeding schedule? Tell her there was a better way to do what she was doing? Was I critical of her menu? Or her housekeeping?
Not a chance. I was admiring, amazed at how the baby robins knew to keep silent when Mama flew away. “Danger!” they must have thought. But, I was no danger to them or her. In my heart, I was cheering them all on, wishing them a safe place and time in which to grow. The furthest thing from my mind was to impede, disrupt or undermine Mother Robin’s efforts.
But, she didn’t know that. Perhaps she saw me as she had been programmed to do – a threat, an unknown, an intruder. Unwelcome. She continued to look at me uneasily, wondering if I might try to unseat them from the comfort and safety of their home.
Do you perhaps see yourself in this scenario? Either as a MIL or a DIL? On one side or the other?
I walked away slowly and made a point of entering and exiting the house through another door. Each time I’m checking on the progress of the tomato garden or the dampness of the clothes on the line, I peer into that corner above the porch light to see what’s going on there. Will she become accustomed to my presence? How long might it take for her to trust me? Will she ever?
We have only a limited amount of time to forge this pact, she and I. Her babies will only be babies for a short time. And I can only share and enjoy what she is willing to allow or welcome.
But, what am I talking about now? Birds? Or MIL & DILS?