Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Magpies have a bad reputation. Remember Heckle and Jeckle, the two annoying magpies created by Terrytoons? In many children’s stories they are seen as chattering, pesky birds who steal rings, pull threads from raveling sweaters, and carry off other treasures to decorate their nests. One friend described them as “pack rats of the bird kingdom” when I asked her opinion on a tentative name for my blog. Unfortunately, these traits fit me to a T. My husband and our friends are often driven to extra handfuls of potato chips by my chattering and I do tend to save all manner of shiny bits and pieces to weave into the poems and stories I consider my nest.

Then I discovered a delightful English fairy tale called “The Magpie’s Nest”. Because the magpie was regarded by other birds as being the cleverest in building nests, she was asked to show them the tricks of her trade. A large crowd of feathered creatures gathered round as she took some mud and made sort of a round cake with it. That was enough information for the thrush who flew away with the idea and made her nest of clay. The magpie continued to demonstrate her techniques – and after each step another bird thought she knew what to do and left to create a structure in her own fashion. Meanwhile, the magpie concentrated keenly on her work without looking up. When at last she was finished, nobody was left. How discouraging! No one wanted or appreciated her years of experience so the magpie got angry and refused to ever tell the birds again how to build nests. And that’s why different birds build their nests differently.

All my life I’ve seen things a differently from other people and as I grow older, I enjoy the variety of those perspectives and opinions more and more. My magpie’s nest is complex and often messy but it’s beautiful in its own way. So is your tiny hummingbird’s home, your golden eagle’s aerie, and your swaying oriole’s hammock All are places where we nurture our young and return when we need a secluded, quiet place after they’ve flown away. All are built to fit the conditions in which we find ourselves. All make the world a more interesting place to live.

In the days ahead, I’ll convince the magpie to look again at her decision. I think I can convince her to share the shiny tinfoil, the magenta hair ribbon, the lost button, and maybe even a torn page from a book as she continues building her dwelling place. I hope you’ll share the raw materials of your life as we build an aviary like no one has ever seen before.

May you find exactly what you need to feather your nest today,

Mary Ann


  1. This is lovely. A great place to grab a cup of tea and put your feet up for a bit.