Thursday, March 22, 2007

Ecosystematic: what goes around ... and around ... and around ...

Ever since I realised how many blackbirds, honey-eaters and pigeons make nests in the yard and garden every year, I've been taking the lint from the clothes-dryer filter and leaving hanks of it draped around on branches and bushes instead of throwing it away.

I always feel a bit mad doing this, and it makes the garden look extremely strange. But then in late summer when I haven't used the dryer for months and am cutting back the overgrowth, or in midwinter when I'm doing the pruning proper, it always makes me glad that I did it whenever I come across yet another one of these from the last nesting season, the way I did today:




'Gaston Bachelard, writing about nests in The Poetics of Space, quotes from Jules Michelet's L'Oiseau (1858): "There is not one of these blades of grass that, in order to make it curve and hold the curve, has not been pressed on countless times by the bird's breast, its heart."

... Although Bachelard writes about the naive wonder we feel when discovering a nest, I disagree when he suggests that a living, useful nest is valid to our set of images and metaphors associated with nests but that the empty, abandoned nest is nothing. ... The delicate structure; the natural, dulled colour of the materials; the shaping; the accidental debris, the memory only, of seasonal usefulness; the architecture, the shaping of the space but not the space itself in Bachelard's philosophical terms -- the beauty that literally takes my breath away sometimes -- have nothing to do with images of home, warmth, security, refuge ...'

-- Gay Bilson, Plenty: Digressions on food

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Both my sister and I as children had long, fair hair. It was an early lesson in ecosystems to find a nest, which had our hair as part of its construction, tying together the twigs and grasses. Lucy Sussex

genevieve said...

Now I shall have to send you a pic of one of my offspring ready to take a nest to school. That lint looks lovely and warm.

Meredith said...

I agree with Bilson... an empty nest is very evocative, very beautiful. Again with the childhood memories - my mum had a friend, quite a witchy friend, whose loungeroom was strung around with birds' nests on fishing wire. I loved sitting in that room.

JahTeh said...

There are a lot of red hair nests around my area come spring.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Lucy and Jahteh, yes, I know the feeling -- in my youth when my hair was hippie-long and still had quite a lot of red in it, I was ambling down to the shops one sunny spring day with it freshly washed and pinned up rather untidily on the top of my head, and got ambushed by a willy-wagtail trying rip a beakful of hair out of my actual head. I'd been swooped on by a number of magpies in my young life, but the willy-wagtail was a first.

When I first moved into this house there was a stately ginger-and-white cat next door, name of Harold, with very soft fine semi-long hair that I occasionally found wisps of on the back doormat. Every winter when pruning, I'd retrieve half-a-dozen honey-eater's nests from the bowels of the bougainvilleas, all fully lined with soft ginger-and-white fur.

Meredith, have you read Bilson's book? You would love it.

Anthony O'Donnell said...

"Meredith, have you read Bilson's book? You would love it."

Yes, isn't it the most amazing Australian book you've read written by a professional cook?

GoAwayPlease said...

Guilty also.

The combings of my pets line many nests. So pleased to know I am not alone in this.

We humans are merely CO-existing with the others aboard

Suse said...

The comments on this post are almost as beautiful as the post itself.

I have three nests on our mantelpiece - one is so tiny it's unbelievable.

Off to find Bilson's book now.

Cellobella said...

Oh my goodness - I'm going to defelt my dryer RIGHT NOW! Brilliant. CB

Anonymous said...

Mmmm. Not sure why anyone would want to encourage feral pigeons (is my assumption correct?) and blackbirds but three cheers for the honeyeaters.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Well, they're all birds. My attitude is more Zen than eco-manager -- all living creatures, etc. I like rats, too, and redbacks, and snakes, as long as they stay a few feet away from me personally.

I don't really see the point of privileging natives for natives' sake in an environment where that kind of racial purity is a thing of the long-ago past, unless the native species are actually endangered.

(Besides, pigeons make these pathetic little twiggy trellisy things that blow away in a stiff breeze and that they hang over both sides of, looking very odd -- I don't think they line their nests with anything.)

I take it, anon, that you have nothing against lorikeets, which is by far the biggest bird population in the yard and which I also encourage with native trees and bowls of special lorikeet food. Or willy-wagtails, which I also have nesting.

Anonymous said...

"in an environment where that kind of racial purity is a thing of the long-ago past."

Thanks for confirming my suspicions about Sir David Attenborough. Silly walk my hat- that guy goose-stepped all the way through "Life in the Undergrowth".