Volume One Special Coverage: Pulling Together While Staying Apart


Nest In Peace

my cohabitation with some feathered friends

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Ian Kloster


I try to see it from the opposite perspective, I really do. I try to sympathize. I imagine myself, snuggled in all cozy upon the couch, doing the things I like to do at home while snuggled upon the couch. I imagine myself reading a classy, thought-provoking novel while listening to classy music and sipping a classy beverage like hot chocolate. Then, exploding from nowhere, I hear BAM BAM BAM, and I feel the floor shake over and over again as something huge wallops the side of the house.

Before I know what’s happening, my house is falling, twirling end over end as it, me, and 100 percent of my possessions – not to mention my wife and kids – goes rocketing straight down, crashing onto the hard concrete in utter ruin.

I try to see it from the opposite perspective – from the perspective of the bird. I really do.

But it doesn’t help. Something inside me just can’t stand to have a bird’s nest above my porch light, perched up there, directly over the front door to my house.

Every year, in the springtime, it appears. At first I notice stray bits of stringy weeds littering the front step. Little pellets of mud are sprinkled before my door. I look up and there it is: the foundation of a robin’s nest, just a small, fragile spiral of brown dead grass about the size of drink coaster. Taunting me.

Like fat, red-breasted ninjas, the robins return under cover of darkness. Instead of nunchucks, they bring twigs. Instead of throwing stars, they bring bird crap, and they fling it all over my step.

If I knock it down in a fit of pre-emptive nest-destruction, it just reappears within a day or two. Like fat, red-breasted ninjas, the robins return under cover of darkness. Instead of nunchucks, they bring twigs. Instead of throwing stars, they bring bird crap, and they fling it all over my step. If you’re not diligent, knocking down the nest every time you see it, you will never win the battle. Because ninja-robins are tenacious.

I am not diligent. I am not tenacious. So every year, within a few weeks of the robins’ first visit, a cozy little nest rests over my front door. The step is splattered with poop. And more often than not, stray tendrils of grass hang down over the screen door, like loose threads from an old, raggedy sweater. I can barely resist yanking them off.

I want to grab the broom and poke, poke, poke it down. My wife says, “You can’t. That’s their home.” I say, “They will rebuild their home elsewhere. Robins are tenacious.”

“What if that robin needs to lay her eggs right away,” she asks. “They don’t have time to build a new nest. What about the babies?”

And this is why, every year, I have a family of robins living in a nest stuck to my porch light with mud nuggets and whatever else birds use to make their nests all sticky. This is why, every year, for the majority of the spring and summer months, I’m scared crapless by plump birds divebombing within inches of my head as I get the mail, wave to my friendly neighbors, or weed my weedy gardens. Because I don’t want to “kill the babies.”

The robins are just a fixture in our lives now. I assume they are the same robins season after season. My kids will grow up knowing them. Maybe we should give them names.

I already have a few names in mind.

I believe their influence has already affected us. The nest happens to be just feet away from my son’s bedroom window. I believe constant proximity to our avian neighbors has imbued my developing child with special bird-whisperer powers. Robins love him. They hop right up to him. They do not flee from his youthful rampaging. He’s like a little nose-pickin’ Snow White in fireman rain boots. Thus far, this bird stuff, along with blinding cuteness, are his only true superpowers. Maybe one day other birdlike abilities with manifest.

So this is all I ask of you, Universe. If I must tolerate a bird’s nest hanging over my front door for months on end, the least you could do is give my son the power of flight.

OK, I’m done.

Lasker Jewelers
Lasker Jewelers

Pulling Together Partners

The following organizations are currently supporting Volume One’s work in the community during the pandemic:

Lasker Jewelers

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Eau Claire

Downtown Eau Claire Inc DECI

University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

Pablo Group

Wisconsin Independent Network

Middle West Management

Bon Iver

Royal Credit Union

Silver Spring

Evergreen Surgical

Charter Bank

Chippewa Valley Technical College

The Murty Henriksen Family

The Larry and Marie Past Family

The Dan and Kerry Kincaid Family

Anton and Rae Schilling-Smets

Brady and Jeanne Foust

If your organization is interested in supporting Volume One during this difficult time, nick@volumeone.orgcontact us.