The first, snuggled in the crest of a weeping cherry, belongs to a robin family. It’s a good 30 feet from our deck, and you have to sneak around behind it for a good view, but sure ‘nuf, after days of patient sitting, Mrs. Robin is proud mama to three adorable babies who look like they’ll soon be ready to take on the world.
The second nest belongs to a cardinal family. It’s nestled in the low-bowing branches of a saucer magnolia right outside the window over our kitchen sink.
Beautiful Mrs. Cardinal built the nest just a handful of weeks ago, and has been sitting in it almost constantly for the last ten days. It’s a perfect spot, it seems; most of the time, if you don’t know about the nest, you can barely see it or her; the only sign that she’s there is a spot of bright orange that is her beak. But at 5:38 p.m., the sun drops enough to find its way through the branches, illuminating her for just a few gasp-worthy minutes.
Until yesterday, that is.
Yesterday morning, Mr. Cardinal showed up at the nest. Oh, he’s no doubt been hanging around, watching for predators, ready to fly in and help out with feeding his babies once they've hatched. We have even heard him calling right outside our back door, but this is the first we’ve seen of him.
But yesterday, he landed on the nest’s branch near the trunk of the magnolia, gazed at his family-in-process for a few moments, took the short flight to the nest and touched his beak to Mrs. Cardinal's. Then she rose to let him inspect her eggs. He looked carefully, from all angles. Then, less than a minute later, he flew off, she returned to the nest, and we went about our daily business, smiling, looking forward to silently greeting their babies.
That was the last we’ve seen of either of them.
The nest has apparently been abandoned, and it will soon be time for us to look inside to see what our lovely cardinals saw yesterday morning. Were the eggs dead? Had they disappeared, victims of a hungry squirrel or chipmunk or perhaps some creature of the night? Had the babies hatched and died?
This was our first nest-watching experience, so we have no expertise in this area. But we looked it up on the internet and learned that this sudden abandonment of the nest is not all that unusual; apparently if mama even feels threatened by a potential predator, she will take off permanently, searching out another spot to try again.
We are sad. But there is, as usual, comfort in scripture: “For the creation was subjected to futility,” the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8, “not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”
I’ve read many commentaries on this passage, most of them wanting to spiritualize the meaning out of the passage. But its meaning seems clear: the entire creation is going to enjoy the glorious liberty of God’s children, which is to say those who have repented and trusted in Christ.
The upshot? I believe that we’ll be seeing Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal again one happy day, in the midst of that glorious liberty. And maybe we'll get to meet their babies as well.