He goes on to ask this question: “Does a bird need to theorize about building its nest, or boast of it when built? All good work is essentially done that way – without hesitation, without difficulty, without boasting; and in the doers of the best, there is an inner and involuntary power that approximates literally to the instinct of the animal ...” He also suggests that a human artist’s reason does not trump instinct.
One might quarrel with Ruskin’s view of art talk. But I agree that the less a work of art is talked about, the better off the work is. I suspect that if my robin friend and I were able to communicate she might be a bit puzzled by my quizzing her about her nest building technique. She operates just as Ruskin suggests all good artists/architects do, without hesitation, difficulty or boasting. Her indifference to theory is refreshing. I am happy that she chose the flower box outside my window to raise her family. I do look forward to opening the window once the little ones depart. I miss the soothing feel of the cool night air that brushes up against me. I might just collect up the nest when they leave and add it to my windowsill collection down in the barn, just to be able to enjoy, wordlessly, this lovely example of natural architecture.
A robin’s approach to home building differs from those of phoebes and bluebirds, but the effect is the same: Off the grid housing both practical, renewable and earth friendly. It is no less beautiful or inspiring than the most complex of human architectural creations. Simplicity is keystone to elegance and wisdom. Birds build nests not for show, but for practical reasons. Their artwork is thoroughly utilitarian, not an ounce of showmanship is involved. I suspect at some level a nest builder derives a great deal of satisfaction from her work. It is a quite personal sense of accomplishment not accompanied by self-serving fanfare.