Birds, barbecues, and beginning again…

The birds are at it again. March has barely begun, and the birds (I think they are European starlings) seem to have returned early. And they’ve decided for the third or fourth year in a row that they are going to build a nest in my barbecue.

I’ve looked up this phenomenon online. I am not the only homeowner to experience the birds-building-nest-in-barbecue, and that is a relief, to some small degree. From my online reading, I’ve learned that of course, it makes sense to want to build a nest in a warm and sheltered environment that, especially when said barbecue has only recently been vacated by humans who have grilled something there making it extra toasty and a great place to start a family.

But, equally of course, the whole thing annoys me. I’m terrified of opening the barbecue lid while the birds are busy at work building (has anyone seen Alfred Hitchcock?). So I’m always tentative when I have to clean it out. I’m also disgusted by the thought of whatever bacteria the birds may have left behind on the grill – they don’t seem to differentiate their pooping grounds from their nesting ones. And lastly, I’m reminded by my ten year old child that birds need a place to build a nest, so I am very conscious (and guilty) of the fact that I am somehow interfering in nature’s larger plans.

Yet it is my barbecue, to which I remind my child that if she prefers her hamburgers grilled rather than soggily fried in a pan, I have to address the bird problem. And so I do. And it is at that moment, when I gingerly lift the barbecue lid, that I am amazed by the birds and their ingenuity and tenacity. There are sticks in there, bits of mud, leaves. I can clean out the barbecue, scrub the whole thing down, put it back together, close the lid and call it a day. And then I will find the next day, the birds have simply gone back and done the same thing all over again. Once, they had even rebuilt their nest overnight so that it was larger than the day before.

So what do birds and barbecues have to do with writing? Persistence. In the field of writing, as with so many artistic endeavours, it’s easy to get knocked down by a rejection letter (or several). Our ability to give up on a project because it isn’t working, because we don’t feel “in the right headspace”, or motivated enough to continue can readily take us off our intended course, and lead us to incomplete works, or worse, the loss of the desire to write at all. I think all artistic people go through such phases. Perhaps at times we need to allow ourselves fallow time, to reconnect with ourselves, our inspiration. But at some point, we have to be like the birds. We have to be tenacious. We have to decide for ourselves that, yes, we will not give up.

When I think about those birds in my barbecue, I’m pretty sure they’re not asking themselves if their nest is good enough. They’re not concerned if the nest is the best nest they’ve ever built. They’re just concerned that they get into that protected space and that they build the foundations for their progeny. And when they face adversity from their human foe (in this case, namely me), they don’t give up, and just build and rebuild again. Until, of course, I leave the lid open and make the barbecue a less desirable space for hosting bird nests. But then they just go build somewhere else.

My thoughts for this March blog and the hopeful approach of spring are to be persistent, to rely on one’s own tenacity. These are the skills that allow writing to proceed and to achieve success. And, like the birds, who somehow manage to return from their winter vacation down south with a flight path that leads them directly to my barbecue, it’s persistence and tenacity that will lead a writer’s work to its rightful home. So where will you build your nest?