In her magnificent book, Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer writes:
There was a custom in the mid-1800’s of planting twin trees to celebrate a marriage and the starting of a home. The stance of these two, just ten feet apart, recalls a couple standing together on the porch steps, holding hands. The reach of their shade links the front porch with the barn across the road, creating a shady path of back and forth for that family.
I realize that those first homesteaders were not the beneficiaries of that shade…they must have meant for their people to stay here…so here again, in practice, is that idea of thinking of one’s family’s future well being even as one does something for personal benefit.
That passage immediately brought to mind the oak trees planted in our front yard, whose shade reaches over every path to every barn. The Pattersons, who built this house in 1861, left every family who has ever lived here this wonderful gift of cool shade while going about chores, even at the height of summer.
I was reminded of this passage and this idea while setting up the pole barn for my flock today. In one corner of the barn, just beneath the rafters, sits the most perfect nest:
I don’t know how long it has been there, but I first noticed it when I was cleaning out the barn in preparation for my flock early last Spring. I noticed fresh droppings from Spring through Fall, although I left the nest undisturbed and did not peek in to see who inhabited it. Every time I go into the barn, which is a few times each day, the nest never fails to catch my eye, or set me thinking about home: the work and faith and hope it takes to build a home.
I don’t know whether any of our children will claim this house as their home when the time comes. Still, I do what the Pattersons and every other occupant who called this house their home did: I plant, I care take, I improve. Thinking of my home, and that nest, I come back to Braiding Sweetgrass:
We are showered every day with gifts, but they are not meant for us to keep. Their life is in their movement, the inhale and exhale of our shared breath. Our work and our joy is to pass along the gift and to trust that what we put out into the universe will always come back.