Among the most hopeful symbols of Spring is the bird nest, interpretations of which suggest the promise of new life, prosperity, comfort and protection. The nest can represent a place of incubation for new ideas or opportunities. The English language is filled with phrases affiliating the nest with the deep affection we hold for heart and home. While not all birds build their own nests or even construct their homes in trees, there are some aspects of nests that are consistent and can serve as inspiration for our own homes:
1. Nests are customized specifically for their occupants
Each bird knows instinctively how to construct her nest to accommodate herself and her nest-mates. Her home is inherently an extension of herself, a simple layer between bird and outer world, formed with her own body used as the tool. The repetitive pressing of her breast against the nest materials forms an inner curve perfectly suited to her size, imprinted, so to speak, with her heart! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our own home reflected such a deeply personal quality that it would leave no doubt as to whom it belongs to – and responds to?
Creating a home that is as intimately responsive to its occupants as a nest is to its respective bird means that the building and surroundings need to be closely integrated with each other, and with the inhabitants. Design decisions are based on the life and vitality of the inhabitants, offering a rich variety of sensory options: places of lightness and darkness, enclosure or views outward, spaces that are quiet and opportunities for pleasant sounds. The home, like the nest, allows for the experience and enjoyment of the seasons or the shifting light patterns during the day. Customizing our homes in such a way helps choreograph the movements of our daily and even seasonal life, offering us the perfect place to sit, pause, or move exactly where and when we wish to do so.
2. Nests reflect the environments in which the birds live.
When constructing their nests, birds primarily incorporate natural materials from their immediate vicinity. Whether twigs, leaves, grasses, or mud, each nest is very much “of the place” – a phrase used when a design reflects the authentic character of its location’s natural, cultural, and historical context. We sometimes see homes that are clearly not of the place, and may recognize that something doesn’t feel quite right about them. Many times, people have a romanticized memory or affection toward a certain home “style” and try to recreate it. However, a home found on a Spanish hacienda is inappropriate in a Fargo, ND neighborhood, contextually being at odds aesthetically and culturally, and lacking connection to local materials and a northern climate.*
It is important that our homes reflect and connect with the local context, to give us that sense of place, to blend with the overall natural environment, and to appropriately respond to the climate. No matter that we have indoor heating and air conditioning, it is much healthier for us and our planet when we can naturally connect with a more varied source of temperatures and fresh air as much as possible.
3. Nests are designed for comfort, not to seek the
admiration of other birds!
Our home should provide for shelter, safety and comfort, socialization, renewal, and self-expression. A smaller** home can do this beautifully and simply, offering us as much space as we actually need and use on a daily basis – nothing more. When we have a personal sense of scale within our home, with spaces sized to allow us to keep track of our people and our things, we can feel a greater sense of security and connection, and a lower level of stress.
To feel the most comfortable to us, our own dwellings need to be tailored to fit our needs and personal forms of expression; not designed generically based on “resale” or to impress. Nor should we feel compelled to follow decorating fads and design trends established by others, which can leave us feeling unfulfilled and disconnected from our own home. Like the nest, our dwellings can be a direct and authentic extension of our very being, our second skin.
Whether designing, building, or simply refreshing your existing nest, take cues from our feathered friends to dwell well in your own home:
Make Direct Connections to Nature – Like a Bird’s Nest Does!
Whether designing, building, or simply refreshing your existing nest, take cues from our feathered friends to dwell well in your own home. It will connect you to place, uplift your sense of well-being, and be more supportive to the health of the planet!
• Provide direct views to trees, a garden, water, or whatever natural element is available to connect to. Then take time to enjoy the view!
• Incorporate as many natural and local materials in and around your home as you can. This means planting with native plants, using wood, stone, or brick rather than plastic, vinyl, or synthetic materials.
• Display reminders of nature around your home. Interact with them often.
• Bring in the outdoors! Open your windows and breathe in fresh air! Allow the sounds of the birds or breezes in the trees to surround you in your home.
• Allow yourself to feel the varying temperatures associated with the seasons when you can. Keeping your home closed and having a constant temperature no matter the season is similar to listening to a monotone person speaking 24/7. We need variety through all of our senses!
** By “smaller” home, I refer to a size at or below the national average (2600 square feet). Between 1973 and 2018, the average size home in America increased by about 1000 square feet, while the average number of occupants in households dropped. Square foot allotment per person almost doubled in that time. Why do we need twice the space per person in the last 45 years? As far as we know, bird nests have remained more or less the same size during that time frame!