An urban nest

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

A few weeks ago, my friend and I looked out our fourth-floor office window to a newly rebuilt pigeon's nest.

My friend, whose desk is right near the window, watched them assemble the nest, twig by twig. When I passed by, I watched the pair gently nestling up to each other. At one point, the nest was barely a mess of twigs. Then, after a storm it was totally gone.

Later, when unoccupied, the nest looked modest at best, nest-shaped but not built to last. But when one of the birds sat in it (it's designed for only one), its feathery breast resting on only a concrete beam, there was no mistaking that the oval ring of twigs that surrounded this body was home. Its mate would pace back and forth near the nest in a standing-guard manner.

Pigeons are the disenfranchised of bird society – considered to be dirty city birds, beggars, a nuisance. I remember eating lunch outside with a friend one day on a city plaza. My friend shared her sandwich with some birds but shooed away the pigeons because the crumbs were for "real birds." Yet there was something very real about this pigeon, resting in the home it had made.

Finding home or making home can involve quite a journey for people as well as for pigeons.

A couple of years ago, for a more varied experience and a better commute, my husband and I decided to move from a suburb into Boston. We found a spot that felt right for us, and we made the move. The location was good, the commute on public transportation was great, and it was a nice place to live. It was even quiet, and we had friendly neighbors.

But after we moved in, I just couldn't get used to it. I had trouble sleeping, and the contractors finishing some work were uncooperative and irresponsible. I wondered if we'd made the most expensive mistake of our lives. Yet my husband settled in so easily. Our friends and family thought it was a great spot. What was wrong with me?

I talked to a friend who was adjusting after recently moving cross-country. She told me that she had made a conscious effort to sit in her living room and acknowledge the presence of the qualities of home and to feel them in her heart. I decided to do this, too. As I sat on the couch, I would think about those qualities and let them embrace me. I thought that if they were present in my heart, they must be present in my new house.

For some time, I'd believed that home is an outgrowth of feeling at peace within oneself and with God – that all the qualities I love about home – shelter, comfort, nurturing, peace, rest – have their roots in my relation to the Divine. Feeling at one with my Father-Mother God would make these qualities tangible in my life. One of my favorite hymns says:

Pilgrim on earth, home and heaven are within thee,

Heir of the ages and child of the day.

Cared for, watched over, beloved and protected,

Walk thou with courage each step of the way.

Christian Science Hymnal, No. 278

Holding to this idea that home is in my heart and isn't grounded in a particular place, I started to settle in and feel at home. Some negotiations with one of the contractors softened, and he provided the funds for a major repair. I grew to truly love and appreciate this spot – its space, light, beauty, and shelter.

From my vantage point above the nest, it looked as if the pigeons outside the window felt at home quite naturally. One day when I made my morning check, there was a beautiful egg. I'm glad I saw it when I did, because whenever I checked after that day, one of the birds was in the nest. They took turns nestling the egg for hours on end on their cement floor within twig walls.

Each morning as I slowly approached the window, our eyes met, and I thanked God for showing me one more way that home happens.

One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.

Psalm 27:4

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