Feathering One's Nest

Posted by PARO on July 22, 2011

Out for a walk one day, Taina’s eagle eyes spotted a massive circle of sticks on the ground at Marina Park. At first she didn’t know what it was, but flipping it over she believed it might be the nest of a big bird. Maybe a crow? After moving it to safety by the trunk of a pine she immediately called me. She knows I love crows and have a collection of abandoned bird nests. She knew I would love it! And she was right!

My sister Taina is an enterprising woman. She juggles many hats at once: wife, mother, university professor, hairdresser, yoga and fitness instructor, gardener, bird watcher, writer, aunt … to name a few! With her independent energetic spirit and a heart rooted in community, she works hard to create a life for herself and her family as well as make a better world at the same time!

My little dog, Sam, jumped in the car and off we zoomed to Marina Park. The crow's nest was right where Taina said it would be! Loading it into the back seat of the car was no easy task as it was heavy. Sticks jutted out every which way poking at my fingers. It barely fit through the car door! With Sam barking excitedly at the new visitor, I somehow managed to get it onto the backseat. I was thrilled. I couldn’t wait to bring the nest home.  What lessons did Crow have to teach me this time?

This nest is definitely the work of a master builder. Who knew a crow’s nest could be so beautiful? It weighs about eight pounds and is two feet wide and nearly a foot high. Mud forms the base or bowl of the nest. It appears that the crows first inserted long sticks and short twigs into the mud base on the outside of the nest. Then, with an elaborate weaving of roots, flower stems, dandelions, feathers, moss, and even strips of plastic from discarded plastic grocery bags, the crows created a soft inner cushion. Round and round, layer upon layer, these elements form a perfect circle. The nest is deep and soft inside yet also sturdy—ideal for growing baby crows! 

I was in awe not only of the ingenuity and capability that went into the building of the nest but also of the wisdom of the crows in incorporating whatever was around them to create their masterpiece.

It makes me laugh to realize that just like crows enterprising women are also accomplished builders. As women we are always building and creating. We construct a good life for our families by looking after the day-to-day running of a household and a business. We are creative beings in all that we do. Building anything is an act of creation. Whether a painting, a song, a poem, or another one of our gifts, whatever we build always produces something new.

It could be something as tangible as a delicious loaf of bread or supper for your family, or as intangible as listening deeply to your daughter telling you of her day. Or maybe you figured out a new way to clean up your kitchen faster! In other words, enterprising women are always forming, shaping and molding their lives and businesses. The nest is a metaphor for this. Round and round in a circle we build.There is no beginning or end for we never finish weaving our life story. We continue to add strands as we go through life. We add threads of our ideas, dandelions of intuition, roots of compassion, feathers of inspiration, the bark of our struggles, even the plastic strands of past failures.

Everything we do adds a filament to strengthen our nest: that accounting course we took, the book that gave us new knowledge, or the joy reflected in our children’s laughter. Each strand is a learning experience.

Crows build their nests high at the top of trees in order to survey their territory. We must also aim high and be aware of our surroundings. We must notice what is happening around us, not only individually but also economically and socially. This way we can be prepared for what might affect not only our business but ourselves. The crow’s nest is open to the sky, the sun, the moon, and the rain. Just as we have to be open to new ideas, possibilities and practices so that we don’t miss the rainbows which are sure to come our way!

As I type this, I see a rainbow shimmering across the sky outside my window. Excuse me as I dash outside to take some photographs!

Crows build their nests in the crooks of sturdy branches. The nest is only as durable as the foundation it is built on which must withstand the strongest winds and storms. The nest could topple out of the tree if the base is not solid, as happened to my newfound nest. Enterprising women today build their businesses in a Canadian society structured on capitalism, neoliberalism, and globalization. This has far-reaching implications on how we build, and what we can and cannot build. To work within as well as to withstand and counteract any limits to our possibilities, we must build a strong, flexible and durable nest.

Enterprising women start their endeavour as crows do. They begin with who they are. This is how we initiate anything, whether it is a nest or a business. Each of us has many different strands that make up our identities. As an artist, I have built my artistic practice from the vantage point of a white, lower-class, able-bodied, middle-aged, Finnish-Canadian, single mother living in Northwestern Ontario. Some of these factors will give me privileges while others will hold me back because of the inequities and barriers in our society. As well, these factors are in flux and some may change at different times in my day-to-day life.

The mud the crow uses to form the bowl of the nest holds the nest together. We too need a strong base of the support systems in our lives that help us do our work. Our family, community, and friends are all important. For some, church is their support base, for others their yoga class, while others will find it is their writing group that gives them sustenance. PARO has been a strong support for me as well as many other women. With the help of these support systems we are able to build our lives and businesses, and nourish our creativity.

We never create alone. Pairs of male and female crows build their nest together with the help of one and two year old crows. Bird families are as diverse as our families! Just like the crows we can succeed because of strong support systems. By nurturing and mentoring those around us our support base grows and returns to us to help us build that which is in our heart and soul.

Ultimately, as with all things creative, we become what we create. The nest is not just an object outside of us. All of our hard work comes from within us. The nest is a place of birth where we give birth to our dreams, our hopes, our aspirations, just as the female crow births an egg which will grow into a hatchling and mature into a crow.

Our nest egg is whatever success means to us.

It could be self-esteem, family, money, respect, status, renown, or independence. It may be crafting a fairer and better world, developing our talent, sharing our expertise, or making a living on our own terms. It could be one or all of those things. Each enterprising woman’s nest egg will be different. Creating is a process that never ends. Enterprising women continually add layers to their nests. Sometimes we start building new ones if we’ve outgrown the old! No gust of wind or toppling over can stop an enterprising woman. The possibilities are endless! Take an example from Crow: Spread your wings and fly!  Katja Maki


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