Capn's Blog

Thursday, July 27, 2006

What a bird taught me

When I was growing up I lived on a farm. And being a boy, I was as curious then as I am now about the way things work. I guess that's why I'm an engineer.

One day I could hear an Australian magpie singing in a tree. I realised that I could see the nest of the magpie.

So I climbed that tree, probably about twenty metres above the ground, and found the nest. I couldn't believe it was so large, probably about 80cm cubed, made of masses of intertwined small twigs and grass. It must have taken the magpies weeks, if not months to build.

I was fascinated by how the magpies had put it together. So with my curious fingers, I started to unravel the nest. And once I started, I was just so fascinated that I couldn't stop. Several minutes later, there was no nest left.

I climbed down the tree and went onto something else. But later that day I was shocked by something. The two magpies were high up in the tree, and I swear, they were crying.

Australians love the songs of magpies, especially first thing in the morning when their warbling tumbling song greets the sun as it rises. But this time their song was nothing like it. I never heard an animal make such a sad, devasted noise like those birds.

I find it hard to describe now, but the sound and the realisation of what I'd done pierced my heart as surely as an arrow. With nothing but beaks, claws, and two hearts full of love, they had created a home. A home I'd destroyed.

That day their sad song cut straight through my heart and I felt like the lowest human on the planet. More than twenty years later, the memory is still fresh.

I know it doesn't change the badness of the thing I did, but I hope I have at least learned something from it. Certainly, I used that feeling to change myself, so that now I always try to consider the effect of my actions on others.

Those bird sang so sadly as their reaction to losing their nest. To me their song was and is a lesson I'll never forget.


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