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Hawthorn Hill

June 20, 2013

Building a nest is an art form of its own

I thought some time ago that I might follow in my father’s footsteps and become an architect.

After struggling my way through an introductory mechanical drawing class in high school, I realized two things: I had no talent and little patience or interest in the precision that mechanical drawing required. Despite that, however, I have always been deeply interested, from an aesthetic perspective, in the work that architects do. That interest was energized recently while watching a robin build a nest in the flower box right outside my bedroom window. Robins come to their nest building tasks easily, intuitively, and without a lot of fanfare. As I write, three pink nestlings are squirming their way to adulthood, while mom alternately keeps them warm and keeps an eye out for unwanted visitors. Blue jays in particular have been known to spirit off nestlings for breakfast.

What fascinates me most about the nest is the simplicity of its construction, as well its extraordinary compactness. Its construction materials are all free and available locally. Now, there is a sustainability practice one can learn a great deal from. Once the work of raising the young is done, off mom goes, possibly to raise another brood. The little ones make their way in the world, the nest decomposes over time, thus rejoining the earth as compost.

This is a very appealing architecture. It prompted me to pick up a book I have been looking at for some time, a collection of the writings of John Ruskin. In an essay titled “The Mystery of Life and its Arts,” he makes two points in particular that strike me as particularly insightful. He writes that “… art must not be talked about. The fact that there is talk about it at all, signifies that it is ill done, or cannot be done. No true painter ever speaks … much of his art. The greatest speak nothing.”

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