I notice a nest on the beam that separates the porch I share with my neighbor. A nest of loosely woven twigs.
Spring was cold and the maple branches that brush the second-story porch have just leafed out. My neighbor is away for the summer. Inside, I watch the robins bobbing for worms in the yard below. Screeching jays bully the smaller birds off the feeder.
The sight of the nest makes me happy, then concerned my presence may scare away the mother. How long does it take eggs to hatch? Chicks to learn to fly? Weeks? Months? I don’t want to relinquish the porch, but if eggs are laid, I hope they hatch.
It’s the jay’s nest. I set the timer for 30 minutes, quietly open the porch door, and slide into one of the metal chairs. The jay remains on her high nest, head sticking out one edge, tail feathers out the other.
With 17 minutes left on the timer, I hear a loud squawk and see a female jay on a branch nearby. The bird on the nest, a male (my mistake), flies away. Do they take turns sitting? I know little about birds.
I wait for the female to return to her eggs. It’s 70 and sunny. I sit as still as possible. With 14 minutes left on the timer, I slowly get up and go inside, gently closing the door behind me. My absence, I hope, will encourage the bird’s return.
From the kitchen table, I look through the glass in the porch door. No bird. With nine minutes left, she’s back on the nest.
The nest becomes another thing I check,
like the news, the temperature, or whether the stove’s off.
Damp, cold, windy morning.
I pity the jay.
But what would she be doing otherwise?
When does she begin to feel the warmth
coming from the thing she’s created—
the thing she tends?
At what point does possibility become a beginning?
I slept late and don’t feel like meditating. When I made coffee, there wasn’t a jay on the nest. If there’s one there now, I’ll sit. If not, I’ll go grocery shopping before the Saturday rush.
She’s on the nest. I sit.
The sitting jay is vulnerable,
her eggs even more so.
What, but instinct, could make us do these things?
The bird isn’t there
and neither am I.
Things get busy—the weather bad.
I never see the baby birds. One day, when I look, the mother isn’t there.
I’m afraid to check the nest.
The choices, it seems, are eggs, excrement, skeletons, empty.
What was I to the jay?
A nuisance? A threat?
An enemy to contend with?
What am I to myself?
Bourbon and a book of poetry on the back porch.
The noise from everyone’s air conditioners.
The light and the glass nearly empty.
Empty or not, the nest is still there.
Almost August. Sitting again,
or at least that’s the plan.
Any jay I see these days,
I imagine is mine.