Empty Nest

Molting skinhead bluejay

I read an empty nest essay this week. It had been a little while. I read a lot of them a few years ago, and most of them were overflowing with grief, or relief, without much in the middle. This recent one was mostly positive about the whole business, which is always good to see. There isn’t much to be said about the process itself, which is natural in that most children do grow up, and this beats the alternative.

Right after the final batch of fledglings leave their nests in late summer, their parents molt. I’m always expecting someone to use this metaphor in their essay, it seems so on the nose, but perhaps I stare at the same set of birds every day more than is normal.

For a bit they look like the bluejay above, though they don’t seem self-conscious about it. I know I was much more so initially, rattling around the house, noticing my aged self in the mirror, worrying about my inexperienced offspring out there among the hawks and snakes.

After a few weeks, new feathers grow in, they regain weight they lost while feeding babies, and become beautiful and sleek and ready for winter. Which is what I hope for myself, spiritually speaking. So far, so good. And, somewhat like corvid offspring, mine are still hanging around, and return home every so often.

Meanwhile, the social media blue bird seems to be in a decline and fall, which reminded me that I should be here. My own corner of that site hasn’t changed at all, but it’s a useful corner from which to eavesdrop, my usual approach to large gatherings, and I’ve learned a lot there. But, past is past.