Thursday, September 20, 2012


There are dishes in the sink, scattered across counter, stove, ice-machine, and they've been in residence for several days.   This cool sunshine has just ebbed all my want-tos for housework---can you have Spring Fever on the cusp of Fall?

I've always said there was nothing I liked more than making a home, but I'm not doing a very good job of it lately.

AND, since Google has informed me that I've overflowed my Picture Quota for now, I'll just be content with words for a day or two.  (When have I ever been DISCONTENTED with them, you ask).
So, in honor of the homekeeping I'm NOT doing today, this is a little re-run of a former post, when I must have been in a dusting/sweeping/polishing mode.

I am the Keeper of a Nest. I just read that concept, in those four little words, on Dear Daisy Cottage, and it was just as if I saw our home and my role in it in a slightly different way. I’ve been pondering that new idea---an idea as old as old can be, from the first fur-huddled families coping with the dark and cold in whatever sheltering cave they could lay bloody claim to.

In the great ages since then, this nesting thing has grown and grown; wars have been fought, and territories seized; lives have been staked and lost; castles and hovels and sheds have all been refuges from the same dark and cold.

And we, the Keepers, have padded these nests with the comforts we could afford or find or make or, in earlier, bleaker times, wrest from weaker nesters. As long as the WE of us were taken care of, the driving, surviving force in us left others outside our own fold to fend for themselves. Cloth and feathers for easing our rest, and chink-mud to keep out the elements; a floor and walls and the thatching for the rain; pots to cook in, water to drink, water to bathe----everything encountered, I think, was looked at as a measure to improve the comfort and well-being of the family.


I try to think of the heart and mind of the first nester to pick a flower, take it into the abode, and place it in a vessel formerly used only for practical purposes. And when that first blossom went into that first humble cup, something in the world clicked into a different place. We saw that our hands could create and provide not only comfort and necessities, but something beautiful, no matter how small or hard-won. I think it's part of our nature to crave something pretty to enhance our worlds.

I think of my own forebears---especially those women of the Scottish Highlands. The centuries of deprivation and hunger and cold, the waiting for the men’s return from battle, the dread of loss, of starvation, of eking out that last scatter of oats or mutton-fat into a meager bowl for their families. That sharp, chilling wind and the sparse landscape, with nothing between it and their clan but their own courage and work. How they must have waited and wept, with hope fragile as life, and despair as their daily bread. And what WAS beautiful in their lives? Did they just stand looking at the sunrises and sunsets, or the hills with their fleeting purple haze?

We went to see; we rode and walked those hills of the Highlands, and the great spaces and crags and rust-hued rocky expanses are still there, looming and forbidding, their only claim to beauty the blush of purplish heather in the Spring, the enormous majesty of their scope, and perhaps the necklaces of the stone fences and crofts, laced upon the hillsides to mark their territory, like pearls strung on a map.


And I thought deeply of those Grand-Dams of mine, those centuries-back female ancestors, whose lives were grim and sere---I could see them woad-smeared and wielding weapons, as easily as I could imagine their tending their smoky fires and nursing babies too soon gone. I hope they had the solace and uplift of something pretty---a polished stone, a braid of grass, a bird egg hand-cradled miles home, just for its curve of glorious color---and I hope they felt the great accomplishment of adding to the life of their family, not just their survival. 

The other side of me came from other parts of the British isles, told in the “Nutmegs” post last year. And Heaven knows, when my ancestor came over/was transported BECAUSE of those nutmegs, the things back in Ireland and England weren’t much to write home about, either, for folks of our working class.

So I suppose that yearning for a home, for a comfortable place to live and raise children, is so ingrained in my genes that I love being home, putting little touches, finding little additions, prinking with a curtain, a bit of lace, an old brooch which would look nice on a totted-up lampshade---those are certainly not talents, but needs, I think.

I NEED to make a nest, to feather it well for me and mine, to add and subtract (the subtracting part becomes more difficult with the addition of each year) and to make it comfortable and warm and welcoming. And whether our nests are the neat rounds of redbirds, with smooth straw and feathers for warmth, or the mud-daubed hammock-roosts of swallows, or the thatchy, gewgaw-frantic piles of magpie gleanings, the lost pull-tabs and gum wrappers arranged into their own wee versions of tatty yards with an old Maytag and a rusting Ford sprawled about---they are OURS, with our mark upon them.

So, we choose our own nests, and we build them to fit the fabric and the taste and the tenor of our lives.



Patsy said...

That was very well written, I enjoyed it. Didn't need picture's.

Kouign Aman said...

The child specializes in building nests within the larger nest of our home. Every blanket she has goes into the construction, then in she scoots. Sometimes she insists I join her; I find them stifling and constricting, being rather larger than she. But, to peek at her tucked in there all securely and snug makes me feel all is right in the world, for that time.

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Rachel:
To some degree or another, the building of a 'nest' is very much a human concern and most people, although by no means all, do this somewhat instinctively. We do find that as we become older we have far less interest in this aspect of life, believing that the outside world presents other challenges which may, and often do, prove more alluring.

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Rachel:
To some degree or another, the building of a 'nest' is very much a human concern and most people, although by no means all, do this somewhat instinctively. We do find that as we become older we have far less interest in this aspect of life, believing that the outside world presents other challenges which may, and often do, prove more alluring.

Pear tree cottage! said...

Rachel...........quess what!!! it is spring down here and even with a heavy cold I am so needing today to "spring clean" but did I do it last year I wonder? gosh not sure, so I will double up this year.....NOT!!!! LOL LOL LOL LOL!

hugs to you my friend.


Jeanne, backyard neighbor said...

Hi Rachel, Your comment about my sisters was so sweet. I am just now finding some time to visit since we left on Friday for our trip to Raleigh.

I'm glad you shared your 'Nesting' story again because I never saw it. I am spring cleaning in the Fall so the answer is YES...Cleaning before the holidays should be called 'Fall' cleaning I guess. HA!

The women of our past and from other countries was great to read. I am convinced women nested since the beginning of time. In different ways but as well as they could for the times. We did what we could according to our budgets in my time. But...I always nested. I am pretty sure you did too. Your fondness for flowers and pretty things tells me so much about you. You find beauty in all things and I love that about you. Oh yes, you nested, still do and so do I. However, I have known women who would rather work and nesting just wasn't for them. Such is life.

Happy Fall cleaning. Are you going to have that 'rain check' Tea party soon? I hope you can.
Love, Jeanne

Martha said...

A great post! I love what you wrote. I love home keeping as well -- there is a difference between it and "house" keeping isn't there!

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

I remember readng this some time back and loving it. I'm glad I read it again. I do that with a "good read" you know! :)
I came from a similar background as yourself..Ireland and Scotland.
Poor people but nesters, every one of them, at least as far as I know.
We all do it in our own way, I know. All four of my daughters are nesters, each in her own way.
This was a wonderful story. Just plain wonderful!

Kim Shook said...

I’m sharing your feelings about liking to keep a home, but not doing a very good job of it just now. Here we are at the cusp of the holidays and I have a million projects just sitting around! And I’m just now catching up on my favorite internet destination! I love this one – it speaks so strongly to me. I’ve never known where that yearning for nesting came from, but it is so strong in me.