Vocation by Instinct (or what birds building nests might tell us about finding meaningful work)

by victoria on March 20, 2013

Recent conversations on Doug Pagitt Radio with Troy Bronsink about fostering creativity (3/7), and Jon Dudley about challenging belief systems, and David Howard about community (3/14) have me thinking about vocation. I believe God works within us to help us contribute to the world in meaningful ways. However determining how to direct our energy to its best use is not always as clear to us as it is to animals, guided by instinct. While humans can operate with instinct, which can lead to intuition, sometimes I do not think we rely on our instinct/intuition enough to help us understand our vocational potential. This poem is an extension of my exploration of the subject.


When we think of birds, it is easy to focus on flight,
but I like to consider their nests. Compiled of fabric and twigs,
strings and leaves, woven around and around. Found
objects barely perceived in the finished home—
whole in itself, until you stare closely to find
a bit of checked green flannel and a plastic red necklace.

My bird spreads her wings, carefully watching for what
she can snatch. She does not waste time asking, “Why a nest?
Why not a burrow?” any more than I ask, “Why a poem?”
She attends to the search for materials. She does not lament
the small size of her beak or sigh with envy over the other nests.
She does not even notice the glory of flight. She rests in the rhythm,

fly, dive, inspect, snatch, fly, dive, examine, build.
She meets her needs with what she finds.
She nourishes herself when she is hungry.
She rests when she is tired.
She washes in the stream when she is finished.
She’ll teach all this to her children—this birdness.

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