A Bird’s Eye View
I found this goldfinch nest in the centre of a small hawthorn tree. The home for its eggs was protected by sharp thorns ten centimeter long. Nobody, not a crow, not a racoon was going to reach past the savage protection offered by the tree.
Inside, the woven grass cup was lined with the soft, white down of thistle seeds. The nest was warm and cozy as well as safe.
As I imagined the goldfinch sitting on the nest with its eggs cradled by thistle down, I thought about how much I dislike thistles. When the rosettes sprout in my garden, I have to wear gloves to pull them out or my skin erupts in red blotches. In the sheep pasture, they grow along the fences and become three foot high walls. When you get too close, the plant can sting even through tough jeans.
Our sheep will not eat thistles until long after they have gone to seed, so they are clipped by us so they do not take over. Because they grow between rocks and around the rail fences, we cut them by hand with a line trimmer. By the time the job is done, my hands are shaking, and I am covered with a sticky, prickly green paste.
As I imagined the goldfinch weaving its way between the thorns of the tree to reach the nest, as I pictured the fledglings hoping out onto the branches for the first time, I thought about how much I dislike hawthorn trees. I bump my head on the thorns when I am picking wild grapes in the fence rows in the fall. We have flattened tractor tires by running over fallen branches in the spring. If we try to take down a tree that is reaching into the field, heavy gloves and an extra layer of clothing are required because the thorns will dig into our skin and those wounds get infected.
However, as much as I dislike thistles and hawthorns, this goldfinch made good use of both. Its nest made me rethink my view of these plants that proliferate on our farm. Both have a place.
The thing is the goldfinch and I see creation differently. We can look at the same pasture but we make a different judgement on what we see. I need to learn that my perspective is not the only one and not the most important one.
Humans tend to forget that we are part of the web not in charge of it. We decide what we want in our lawn or on our farm and then use every technique at our disposal to shape the land into what we think it should be like.
If instead we take a moment to see the landscape from the perspective of another creature, we will see something different. When I see a mosquito, I swat it; frogs and dragonflies see dinner.
Every creature has its place. We have moved some from their natural habitat and disturbed the balance–long horn ash beetles and purple loosestrife would be examples of that mistake. But the more common error is to assume that our perspective is the natural one, the important one. We forget that when we make our interest trump, there are creatures who go hungry.