Saturday, June 08, 2013

Hatchings and children and leaving the nest

Frankly, I'm not burned out, but I haven't fully transported back from my new-novel world. 8 hrs. yesterday doing final revision; 7.5 hrs. the day before. Many weeks like that. Those who know the experience can better understand how dazed authors can become after returning to the real world and people and Nature. Here's today:

Birds use to nest under our patio cover in Denver, but each spring at least one hatchling would fall out and not survive. The birds learned and abandoned the site. Rather than urban renewaling, I built a cedar box nest and hung it in the trees by a small pond surrounded by berry bushes. Last year a male remodeled it to attract a mate, but she wasn't impressed by him or perhaps by the accommodations. A couple finally moved in this year.

They only produced two young, which I'm told is either from this being the parents first time or the catastrophic decimation perpetrated on their environment by us. Pesticides, pollution and Global Heating limit the size of broods.

This month I watched the hatchlings sticking their necks out for feedings, crying for food and attention, one alpha getting much more than the smaller one. This week, Alpha stuck half his body out and I guessed it would flee the nest the next morning. I went out that morning to watch the ritual, but, not early enough. Both chicks had gone.

I've observed this life cycle--parents raising chicks, teaching them to go silent at possible danger, urging them out, luring them with the promise of feedings, cutting off the food until they leave, calling them out from a distance, etc.--a couple of times.

For some reason, this time the cycle reminded me of my own two 30s-something offspring, maybe because there were only two hatchlings. Mine left home when they were in their 20s, however ready they were. Two alphas, though with their distinct personalities and strengths.

Later the same morning, I discovered one of the babies still hovered nearby, higher up on the tree. Crying as before, clinging to a branch, not ready to fly further. The last phase of the ritual had begun.

He(?) didn't think he was ready, maybe a guts problem, ganas problem, I couldn't guess. The mother called from a tree across the yard, telling him to take the plunge, spread the wings, and soar. But he wouldn't.

With our own, we never had this to deal with. Quite the opposite. However, in the case of human hatchlings, leaving the nest eventually gets to the stage of home ownership. Apartments serve their needs only up to a point. My hatchlings have just reached that point.

For an hour I watched the mother trying to make her kid take the leap. Maybe he insisted his wings weren't ready. I flashed to my kids, realizing that their wings aren't as strong as they should be.

Both are burdened by college debt, one significantly more than the other. My wife and I helped them out as we could, but not sufficient to strengthen the wing handicapped by that debt.

When we bought our home, it cost about double the starting salary of a teacher. For my goslings to buy a similar house today in Denver's bloated, gentry market requires five times that salary. The U.S. adult population allowed this onus to be put on their broods without much protest. Anger, frustration, but not protests and pickets sufficient to prevent the injustice by the richest nation in the world being done to its own young.

My two alphas are out on a limb similar to the hatchling I watched. In their case, were they to complain about their one wing's weakness, I'd understand and agree. But they don't, at least not in the context of refusing to leave the branch.

The mother bird flew to the branch and gave Alpha2 some food, hopped to nearby branches to show it was possible. He copied her until she flew off to a far tree, yelling at her that he still couldn't do it. Wing problems, still.

My children's other wing--the cost of a simple house--also prevents their completing the other stage of leaving the nest. Two bedroom, one bath, wood frame, WWII houses in my area are in the 175k range. For what? The bare minimum.

Our financial situation won't mean a paid mortgage under the Xmas tree any year for our two. We help as we can, but 20% down on a 30-year roughly means monthly payments close to a grand. The down payment equals 1/3 of the original price for our home! It's also 50% more than our original mortgage monthly. That doesn't sever their wing, but it certainly adds unwanted weight. Unwanted and inflated.

The mother bird came again, this time not offering food. Just demonstrating how simple it was to hop to another branch and then fly away. She called again from a tree not too far, but Alpha2 insisted he knew it was not possible.

In the birds' world, failure to take that final leap means death from starvation or immobility and vulnerability to hawks. In the humans' world, hatchlings can stay in the nest, though they become the butt of jokes and examples of injurious stereotypes.

From the economic sag in this country, living with parents has increased, not to add income to the family like in the 1900s or pursue college like in the 70s and 80s, but more because both wings are weaker than they should be.

By the afternoon, Alpha2 was gone. I searched the ground, in case, but he possibly made it to a tree further away, at least. Or he might still be protesting today. Hopefully, not.

I realize another economic crash may force our kids back home. They'd be welcome, without blame. They didn't cut their own wings, and we did a good job I think showing them how to use them. However, the economy is out of all our hands.

For those of you with hatchlings just stretching their wings, consider the potential difficulty of their final flight. Teach, encourage, urge, maybe even push a little, if you want. But don't think that all American rituals are everlasting.

The birds will continue their leaving-the-nest routine, however fewer hatchlings their future brings them. We on the other hand may have to alter our rituals. And if the birds are watching, perhaps they have ideas of how to correct where our country went wrong so wrong.

Es todo, hoy,


Anonymous said...

Thank you RudyG for your sensitive and reflective blog. I have a "birdie" who just graduated university and although there was no singing, "Wind Beneath My Wings", we both realize the journey is better when you have support.
Congrats and best of luck.

Thelma T. Reyna said...

Loved this essay, Rudy! So true, so true. My birdlings are 44 and 43years old, respectively. One's a single parent without a home mortgage yet, and the other's married, with a historic townhome that's affordable for her and her husband, but she's still got college debt. So each of my loved ones doesn't yet have two fully-strong, independent wings, though they're each so very independent and productively employed, creatively engaged, etc. As you say, these are signs of the times, and Hubby and I help them as needed. But, like you with your birdlings, we're still so proud of them for all that they have done despite the economic realities of the world handicapping them a bit. Adelante!!

Sandra Ramos O'Briant said...

I worked all the way through college and grad school supplemented by grants and NSD loans @ 3%. Those loans were fortunate for me and countless others, and society has been paid back a hundredfold. Now the system seems rigged. When I read about certain states blocking sick pay, refusing medicare or Obamacare, or insisting that workers don't need fair pay, I'm concerned that the end result is to hem us in and make us grateful for whatever crumbs are left for us to scavenge. By us, I mean our kids. Our do-nothing Congress adds to the problem, but people don't seem to pay attention. They're too afraid. Like your baby bird we have to take flight or die. Like the parent bird urging him on, we seniors may not be able to stand by and chirp encouragement to do things the way we "birds" have always done. I'm ready for a revolution, one where The Greatest Generation aligns with Millennials for Change.