In the Nest

I bought my first lawnmower on Friday.  It was super hard. I logged onto Lowe’s website, browsed through the selection of available lawnmowers at the Bellingham store, and then paid for the one I wanted. My plan was to breeze into the store after work, pick up my order at the Customer Service Desk,  and roll on out without any hassles.

People* would take notice as I strolled to my car, knowing I am successful enough to afford a house that has a lawn that needs mowing.  They would stop me and give unsolicited advice, and I would feign interest in what they had to say. My mental fortitude would be rewarded when these people* offered to assist do all the mowing. I’d then give them bottles of Corona from my optimistically stocked refrigerator as a reward.

*People: Noun, plural. Young attractive men.

Unfortunately, all my dreams came to nothing when the employee at the Customer Service Desk delivered my lawnmower… in a box!

Slap forehead.

I didn’t want to assemble anything. It wasn’t sexy. Plus, I just wanted to get to the mowing. Even the idea of stopping at a gas station to put fuel in my new, shiny red gas container seemed like an insufferable delay.  See, some birds had moved into the wall in my living room, and I’d been listening to them scratching and squeaking for a few weeks. Recently, a trail of poop had appeared across the deck because of their frequent trips beneath the eaves. A friend’s weird little dog ate some of it!  I couldn’t ignore the problem any longer.

So what does this have to do with mowing?

Well…I rent, and I couldn’t let the landlord see the condition of the lawn, tall with grass and burgeoning with ecosystems usually found in the woods and not suburbia. I’m too old to be looked at sideways for not doing things I’m supposed to do. So, in order to tell him about the birds, I first had to mow the lawn.

Arriving home from Lowe’s, I assembled* the lawnmower and managed to mow half of the lawn.

*Assembled:  Verb. Past tense. Service completed by friend Andy while author plays with new weed wacker.  

And then, due to circumstances beyond my control (i.e. busy social schedule, cleaning the condo I’d recently sold), I didn’t finish it. Of course, the birds weren’t aware of their impending doom and had, therefore, neglected to move out of my wall, saving me the inconvenience of calling the landlord.  I heard them there this morning.

Because today was my work from home day, I decided to finish the rest of the work over my lunch break.  Honestly, I was looking forward to it because I discovered that mowing is actually AWESOME. There’s a good chance I may never share the duties with my roommate, Anne, either. I’ll pretend like it bothers me, but secretly I’ll love it and do it every work-from-home-Tuesday.  The neighbors, as it turns out, have a rather nice-looking landscape guy, and it’s fun to catch his eye as I’m slaving away with the weed wacker under a heaving branch of tent caterpillars.

But I digress. Back to the task at hand. The winds were intense this winter, and evergreen branches were strewn all over the place – big ones, little ones covered in pine cones. I walked through the lawn before mowing, picking up all the larger branches.

Finally, I powered up my new toy and mowed on! I hadn’t gone five feet on my first pass when a bird flew out of the grass in front of me. It startled scared the shit out of me and I dropped the throttle, stopping the engine.  As I reached down to start it again, I noticed another branch sticking out of the jungle grasses. I picked it up and flung it onto the patio.

I turned back to the mower and there, where the branch used to lie, was a little grass nest. Inside of it were four peach-colored speckled eggs.


If I had found diamonds there in the grass, I wouldn’t have been more excited.  What treasure! Of course, I dropped everything, sprinted inside, and grabbed my camera. Mamma bird worked herself into quite a frenzy as I danced around the nest, snapping photos.


Finally, when I’d taken enough pictures, I realized I needed to finish the lawn, but I couldn’t move the nest.  The mother would abandon her babies. I couldn’t mow over them either, scrambling them all over the yard. What horror! I felt attached to their little unborn lives now that I’d photographed them.


There was really only one choice. I mowed around them.

Afterwards I carefully placed the branch over the nest again. Hiding inside and peeking out my patio door, I waited with my camera for the mother to return. She circled the area for a minute and then landed on the neighbor’s fence, cautiously hopping sideways until she was directly across from her nest. Finally, she glided down to the branch, inspected the area, and then ducked inside to check on her little eggs.


First, I was glowing with the excitement of getting to witness this whole thing – for finishing the lawn without displacing or murdering any of God’s creatures. And then I had the deeper sense that I had the power of life and death in my hands this morning. Maybe they were only birds, but I heard the desperation, the powerlessness in the mother’s chirping.  Her terror. It was sobering.

How often have I felt like some giant mower hovered over me threatening to chop all of my dreams to pieces? And sometimes it does.  Eviscerated hopes have hung out of me, still pulsating as the life drains out, and amputated bits have been scattered across the lawn of my life.  So great is the emotional carnage, I wonder about the existence of God.

But then, as I put down my camera and walked away from the patio door, I felt something stronger. Peace. In the quiet, most insignificant moments I feel like there’s Someone out there who still sees me. Someone who keeps me safe when I’m at my most vulnerable and can’t save myself any more than those eggs could sprout legs and run away.

Maybe these are extreme thoughts to think just because of something that happened with a lawn mower, but I feel that life’s lessons are hidden in the most ordinary of tasks.  Today I knew that I’m not alone in this world. Something bigger than myself sees me and cares about my dreams. At least, I’d like to think so.

The Essence of Being Human

I Heart You

I received some disappointing news earlier today about something I had wanted very badly. It just so happened that a good friend of mine got the thing that I wanted. My first reaction was negative; I spouted off a rant on Facebook, growled a little at my desk, pouted and then took a walk around the block. At the end of my walk, a single word came to me: Ubuntu. Years ago, I read about this philosophy as it was explained by Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.

In other words, I was being a jerk. There isn’t some well of blessings that is about to run dry. There are enough good things to go around, and it’s important that we allow people to have their moments and to praise their accomplishments. And, equally as important, when our dreams seem to be scattering into the wind, we need to remind ourselves that everything we hope for is still in our hands. Nothing is ever lost.



Some of us are bound to worries, others to vices or the wrong relationships. We become slaves to things that hurt us, binding our own wrists to contentious masters that deprive us our peace and replace it with nothing.

To quote Daoud Hari (The Translator), “You have to be stronger than your fears to get anything done in this life.” No one is going to unbind you. Others may provide inspiration or support, but you have to make the choice to tear off your own ties. Ultimately, you need to make the decision to be free. How badly do you want it?

There’s No Place Like Home

I fall in love with each country I visit. In 2006, I loved Scotland so much that I schemed for months to return as a tour guide for Old Reekie Tours and lead people through the haunted vaults of Edinburgh. In 2007, I became so attached to Tanzania I bought every book about Africa I could find and started the prerequisites for nursing school so that one day I could return and open a mobile clinic for the nomadic Maasai people.

Several years and trips later I ended up in Ireland, and not only did I fall in love with that beautiful country, I fell hard for a handsome cop in County Cork. I flew back to see him for my birthday last March, and the second trip wasn’t nearly as magical as the first – as many of you who have followed the story know. One year ago today I roamed the streets of Dublin, heart-sick and wondering what happened. The end result of all that roaming around upset was that a bartender took a liking to me and decided to fly over here (Seattle, Washington) to see me last week. This did not end well.

I woke up at 5 a.m. this past Saturday, and I heard a rustling sound in my living room – almost as if someone was opening and closing the blinds on my patio door. Figuring that was the bartender jet-lagging around the living room, I decided to ignore it. A few minutes later I heard what sounded like multiple people picking up and moving things around, so I got out of bed to investigate. When I opened my bedroom door, I first noticed the unusual brightness of my living room. The second thing I noticed was the orange flames lapping at the patio door glass.

I ran to my front porch to get a fire extinguisher, fuming with the knowledge that the bartender had started the fire with a cigarette. He’d been smoking on the deck earlier.

Caught up in the moment, I forgot about the little hammer dangling to the left of the glass container holding the extinguisher. Instead, I kung fu’d the shit out of that glass, cutting my hand but quickly getting to the red canister. The bartender appeared as I ran back through the living room so I gave him the extinguisher, and I called 911. I have fantasized for years, ever since I went through fire academy, of putting out a fire with an extinguisher, and it broke my heart to delegate that task, but I needed to get the fire department on the way. The flames shot past the top of the door, and I feared they had extended into the ceiling or roof – and we wouldn’t have been able to extinguish that.

Fortunately, the fire had not extended anywhere outside the deck thanks to my hardiplank siding. However, had I slept even just 10 more minutes, the fire would have eaten its way through the second pane of glass on my patio door, and I would have lost everything. That noise like rustling blinds I heard? That was the first pane of glass breaking apart.

After the fire department left, I looked at the bartender and said, “You’re going to need to find an earlier flight back to Dublin.” He knew what he had done and didn’t fight me on it. In 7 short hours, he was gone.

After all of this, I came to the realization that I love my home.  I love the city in which I live and all of the wonderful people who come with it.   I don’t need to travel to distant places and leave pieces of my heart around the world.  I’ll still visit other countries, but I won’t be leaving my heart anywhere.  I’m content, for now, to remain home and finish up my memoir about Ireland.

Ireland will always be Kieran to me anyway.

I think this will make a great final chapter to the story, don’t you?

My poor deck
My poor deck