The Barrel

I dragged an empty barrel next to the trailer, where I set up a shelter with a few pavers and an arched concrete roof tile. Using a spatula and a towel, I covered and lifted the nest from the underside of the trailer to the makeshift casa, hoping the mama bird would somehow find her young.

And the trailer pulled away.

Throughout the afternoon I’d watch from a distance to see if the mama bird was ducking into the tiny cavern, like she’d done when the nest was lodged under the trailer. But my barrel-paver-roof-tile Taj Mahal sat lonely, save for the hidden stash of six tiny, squirming baby birds.

They were still there last night when I peeked into the shelter, beaks straining upward for food. I went to bed anticipating the solemn walk to the nest the next morning, where I’d find them limp in a lifeless pile, a testament to well-intentioned but naive human interference.

Our current state of affairs can have an impact on optimism, especially when the hype-machine takes hold.

This morning, I hesitantly looked into the nest to confirm my worst-case-scenario fear, even though I saw fresh droppings on the pavers.

One, two, three, then four, five, six little heads popped up, just as alive as when I’d left them the night before.

The mama bird has been feeding them all day today, as I’ve done horse chores and played with the dogs.

F you, hype-machine.

The Little Egg

Today is Mother’s Day. I’m not one. I’m apparently surrounded by them, though. There are signs of new life everywhere, from baby turtles around the pond to tiny killdeer in the pasture, to eggs in the nest under the horse trailer.

I found the little egg on Easter Sunday, picking it up as gingerly as I did the dyed eggs in the backyard on my 5th Easter. I’d had to be careful that day, since my other arm was broken from an unsuccessful attempt at riding my bike with my eyes closed. With training wheels.

The little egg must have fallen from somewhere, but I couldn’t find a nook or a nest. Somehow the delicate shell had survived the impact with the pavers, but probably wouldn’t be as lucky with a trampling by dogs or horses.

I thought maybe the mama finch with the nest under the horse trailer would adopt the little egg, even though her eggs were a few times the size. I carefully cradled it in my palm and shuffled down the hill and into the pasture, where I ducked under the trailer and reached up toward the nest.

Four scraggly heads unexpectedly popped up.

And I dropped the little egg.

I wish I could say that the shell broke, and a beautiful bird, already fully formed, magically emerged and took majestic flight into the blue skies of forever.

But the shell broke, and yolk splattered all over the gravel.

Not all over, I guess. This egg was little.

I felt like I’d irreparably disrupted the circle of life. I really did. I’m sensitive, but not THAT sensitive. I don’t know, maybe the shutdown was starting to get to me.

Last Sunday, I ducked under the trailer for my daily tiny-chick check-in, but the nest was empty. Their home was so well-protected, tucked in a gap a few inches beneath the trailer bottom, that I was confident the four baby birds had finally grown enough to move on.

A straggling shell remnant in the nest caught my eye.

A big piece.

More than half.


An entirely new egg nestled in the corner, in place of the little egg that never was.

Each morning, another egg appeared, until there were 4 again.

Then another.

And another.

There were a half-dozen eggs in the nest this morning.

I guess I didn’t disrupt the circle of life as irreparably as I thought.

I still feel bad, though.

Everything and Nothing

I asked him if the ocean was glowing like this the last time we surfed together at night, and he said, “Thankfully, no.”

Probably because I was naked then, and he was grateful for as little illumination as possible.

I’d been at his house for a 4th of July BBQ around the turn of the century. The homemade fireworks had long since expired on the tile deck when he emerged in board shorts and headed down the stairs to the beach, under a full moon dancing over the glass ocean. I didn’t have trunks, but I followed him anyway, and left the jeans already clinging loosely to my bony hips on the sand before jumping on a borrowed board.

I paddled out next to him and tried to adjust myself on the fiberglass. He did a double-take at my situation, moved a perceived safe distance away, and turned his back. I laughed, he laughed, and we spent the next hour hooting at each other’s rides, until we paddled back in to find that someone had stolen my jeans. We laughed more.

That was twenty years ago, and since then, everything has changed. We’ve both moved, and he’s married with a growing family. He brought one of his kids up to Idaho a few years ago, where we hiked up the mountain behind the barn to watch the moon pass over the sun, engulfing the entire valley in shadow.

Last night, a sliver of the same moon barely lit up the thick, black sky, as we trudged down to the water in our wetsuits. We didn’t mind the dark, though.

The ocean was glowing.

Every swirling hand, every dangling foot, every darting fish, every breaking wave, initiated a light-show of bioluminescence that eclipsed Disney’s best wet dream. Magic exists, and whenever the red tide plankton bloom offers this otherworldly nautical display, I’m reminded of how easily nature dwarfs whatever we humans can create.

After an hour of hoots and laughter, we paddled back in and blindly picked our way over the rocks. We hugged goodbye, two men unsure of when they’d see each other again, but completely sure that when we did, everything, and nothing, will have changed.