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Hawthorn Hill

June 20, 2013

Building a nest is an art form of its own


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.

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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

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    May 1, 2014

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    April 10, 2014

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    March 20, 2014

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

    February 27, 2014

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    February 13, 2014

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    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