Monday, September 8, 2014

A Golden Nest

In The Blue Jay’s Dance, Louise Erdrich describes a bird nest she found that holds hairs she combed from her daughters’ heads. Perhaps inspired by Ms. Erdrich, or maybe driven only by my own reluctance to throw away anything that can biodegrade, I've always tossed bits of my children's hair outside, rather than in the trash. In my essay, Memento Mori, I wrote about how I imagined the birds finding these sweepings: "After I trim their hair, I sprinkle the clippings off the deck and into the yard, in hopes that a bird will pick up the strands and weave them into a golden nest." 

But never did I really think I'd come across one such nest, until last weekend, when C brought me this:

He'd found it lying on the edge of the driveway, where it must have blown down from the branches of the pine tree or the apple tree above. The whole inside of the twig and grass and pine needle nest is lined with golden hair. A tiny feather clings to one edge and a long, white horsehair springs out the other side.

Erdrich writes of her daughters' hair nest: 

Now, as I am setting the nest on a shelf in the light of an eastern window, our middle daughter’s blond hair gleams, then the roan highlights of the rich brown of the eldest’s and perhaps a bit of our baby’s fine grass-pale floss…. 
It is almost too painful to hold the nest, too rich as life often is with children…. I see that bird alone in the nest woven from the hair of my daughters, and I cannot hold the nest because longing seizes me. Not only do I feel how quickly they are growing from the curved shape of my arms when holding them, but I want to sit in the presence of my own mother so badly I feel my heart will crack. 
Life seems to flood by, taking our loves quickly in its flow. In the growth of children, in the aging of beloved parents, time’s chart is magnified, shown in its particularity, focused, so that with each celebration of maturity there is also a pang of loss. This is our human to let go while holding tight.

I love Erdrich's writing, and I love that my children's hair warmed a baby bird as it grew up in our own front yard this summer. I love the weaving together of hair and twigs, motherhood and nature, and the gorgeous, heartbreaking impermanence of it all.


  1. I'd never even thought of such a thing--how beautiful!

  2. I have had that same thought ...wondering and hoping that my hair would warm a nest. Well written and so lovingly received!


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