How many times have you kicked something unseen on the sidewalk and looked down to find a natural treasure trembling at your feet? One autumn day on the way to my car after work, I literally stumbled on an abandoned wasp’s nest half buried in the fallen leaves in the office parking lot. I’ve also found birds’ nests that way in my driveway and garden.
This spring, a robin built its nest in an overgrown yew right outside the bathroom window. I could actually see the eggs in the nest if I stood on my toes right up against the window. At the same time, on the other side of the house, a cardinal made its nest in the weeping white pine close against the window of our so-called “library.”
Most birds build nests as a kind of cradle for their young. Once the baby birds can fly, the nests are abandoned. All of that creative craftsmanship is ephemeral; made for one-time use. So late this summer I carefully collected the two nests outside my house and put them where I can savor and study them every day this winter — the way I do with any found bits of art or architecture that come my way.
This robin’s nest (above) is small — about 5 inches across — but quite heavy for its size, with lots of mud gluing it together on the bottom. I decided to display it on this Japanese lacquered stand with another natural object: a dried Allium seedhead from the garden in a blue and white Japanese vase. I moved this arrangement to photograph it; most of the time it's been sitting on the kitchen table where I can enjoy looking at during every meal.
I planned to put this cardinal’s nest at the bottom of this tall glass jar but it got caught on the rim. I decided to leave it there, realizing it made a more dramatic and educational display that way. The opening of this container is about 6 six inches and it's 19 inches tall. The nest is hanging down about 8 inches into the jar. This nest was also moved to be photographed; usually it sits on a table in the bedroom. There it's seen against an umber-colored wall which offers a pleasing counterpart to the browns in the nest.
Other random nests that I’ve found on the ground are protected in the drawers of my library card catalog (below) along with seeds and stones. The drawers are 5 inches wide which gives you an idea of the size of these nests. The robin's nest shown at the top of this post is actually too big to fit in these drawers.