Back when spring sang its anticipated declaration that it was here to stay, we found a perfect little nest of speckled Cardinal eggs in a low Camellia bush by our back door. We watched daily, observing the devoted mama bird sitting and waiting, only leaving at mealtime or when a threat loomed near – read: our curious eyes to see up close. We would thrill when we could spy papa bird who was always in a nearby oak, keeping watch. A few weeks following the discovery, when the suns rays warmed the soil and soaked into our skin the moment we stepped outdoors, we heard small chirpings. The cries of their wee nestlings calling for their return and endless nourishment. The girls peeked on them each morning. We tried to keep them from checking every five seconds to gaze on the cute little chicks so their mama could have a chance to feed and care for them, but curious minds filled with the magic of new life are hard to suppress. A few mornings later my eldest returned from her morning salutation, tears streaming down her face. The nestlings were gone, their home in pieces beneath the bush. The work of a more primal threat than our curiosity.
We wept for their loss. We wept for the truth that the nest had never been safe from the beginning. We wept for the understandable inevitable. For days we would see both parents in nearby trees, gazing and calling to the place where their hope and life had nestled. I wondered if they looked on in grief. Surely birds feel loss.
Spring passed, turning into early summer. Sightings of either parent ceased. At the end of June we again heard familiar nestled chirpings, this time high above our heads in a Japanese maple. And then we noticed them. A mama and papa cardinal, always close, always watching. A week or two following we saw a fledgling in our yard, just beneath the new nest with its mother close by keeping watch over her little one as it stretched its wings, strengthened its muscles, learned to fly. We liked to think it was the same couple. That they had learned, made adjustments. That they had tried again. Kept on to what they knew. Kept moving forward. And we continue to find wonder in every bit of this magical life.