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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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Hawthorn Hill
  • A farewell essay More years ago than I care to contemplate, I very sheepishly sent a column in fully expecting it would be rejected. Lo and behold, it appeared shortly thereafter and for almost twenty years now I have have written these bi-weekly columns, first under the heading of "The Timely Writer" for The Freemans Journal and, for the last several years as "Up on Hawthorn Hill" with the Cooperstown Crier.

    July 17, 2014

  • Writing in the age of ad hominisms This past week several readers of these columns have asked about my absence of late. The honest answer is that there are times when the well runs a bit dry and one’s enthusiasm for forcing words on to the page wanes.

    June 26, 2014

  • Robinson novels show grace, intelligence I have been reading the novels of Marilynne Robinson the past several weeks. She writes with such grace and intelligence that I find myself rereading sections several times over to savor their exquisite taste and, in some instances, to make sure I have grasped the meaning of what she has written.

    May 1, 2014

  • Giving aid to Cornell at my window For quite a few years now I have participated in Cornell's Project Feeder Watch.

    April 10, 2014

  • Birder admits he confuses non-birding world I often run into people who ask me what it is about watching and studying birds that birders like me find so appealing.

    March 20, 2014

  • Olympics spirit in need of repair It is time to rethink what the Olympics ought to be about.

    February 27, 2014

  • Late night drive stirs morning man It has been a long time since my last stint at the wheel in the wee hours of the morning. Several days ago the phone rang at 1 a.m. Never a good sign. Within minutes I was in the car heading for Boston. The sun and I got there at about the same time. Fortunately, the late night emergency that required the trip has resolved itself, all is well, and I was able to head back home the following day.

    February 13, 2014

  • Shopping is never fun, simple I am not a shopper. Quick ins and outs are what appeal to me. The sooner the ordeal is over the better.

    January 16, 2014

  • Wondering if Holidays are worth the stress

    January 2, 2014

  • Laziness must be overcome An essayist in a weekly magazine, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, characterizes the past year as exhibiting an uncommon penchant for laziness.

    December 19, 2013