Monday, June 09, 2008

Empty Nest

There was a brouhaha over my head this morning as I took my walk. As I left the driveway, I heard a commotion just up the street, cutting into my “happy time” with my iPod. Birdsong is the normal accompaniment to any stroll in our neighborhood, usually enhancing my prerecorded music. But what I heard was not birdsong. The starlings were clearly in an uproar.

I looked up to see a flock of starlings chasing a larger bird from the yard of #12 to the oak tree of #15. The oak leaves shook with the turmoil, and then the chase was on again, this time toward the woods. No doubt the larger bird, which could have been a small hawk, had absconded with a young starling. The flock, alerted too late, could only give chase and voice its outrage. By the time the avian army arrived, the brief battle was probably over. All the birds could do was give chase and hope the predator would relinquish its grip so the victim could have a decent birdie burial.

As I walked past the Oak Tree of Certain Death on my next lap around the circle, I realized that even the mourning chirps had ceased. There was no sign of the battle that had raged just a few minutes before.

I could draw lots of lessons from this tragic scene, but somehow the forlorn chirping of the starlings after the lost battle reminded me that my own empty nest looms on the horizon. However, my nest will not empty tragically. In 14 months, give or take 1 or 2, the last two of our kids will leave home. Daughter #1 will move out on her own (I’m resisting comparing the young man in her life to the hawk), and we’ll help Daughter #2 explore the wonders of college dormitory living. Am I sad? A little, but such is the natural order of things. Soon after the girls leave, their dad and I will find our new normal, and life will go on. Actually, we’re looking forward to it.