FEBRUARY 10, 2009 6:06AM


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Tonight I created a banner for my blog here. Nice, huh? It felt like making a commitment, like moving in. Nipping images and photoshopping them into homepage accessories may be the virtual equivalent of decorating a room or engaging in some sort of nesting behavior. I browsed the web for the right images the way I might browse Pier One for the cushiest throw pillows or Home Depot for the perfect shade of paint, activities that emerge from the need to seek comfort and make a place for oneself. I chose colors, cut and pasted, shaded and blurred. And then I put the stuff up and immediately wondered what other people would think (geez, this person’s only been here a week!) and about the permanency of this arrangement.

I’ve moved fifteen times in the last sixteen years, sometimes across the country, a few times across town. When I bought a house recently (what was I thinking), the novelty of the shopping, packing, and signing my life away lasted as long as the unpacking and decorating—the nesting. Then I started to worry about whether it was the best choice, the best deal; whether I will be able to hang on to it; which appliance will die first; and what will happen if something happens.

And what if a gypsy wind blows in one day and I’m stuck here. 

But maybe nesting isn’t about staying in one place. Birds build nests  every year, sometimes in the same place, but usually not the same nests. hornedlarknest3

So do squirrels. They’re quite the little bricoleurs, too. A pair of red squirrels who lived in my back yard in Iowa demolished a couple of my lawn chairs shopping for nesting materials. We left the chairs out into the late fall and the squirrels ripped up the seat cushions to get the foam padding. The chairs were right outside our dining room window and we would sit at the table watching them do it.  They’d stop and look over at us occasionally too; then they’d look at  each other; say something in squirrel, and go back to work. We thought they probably said something like, “Look at the dumb humans.” “Yeah—who leaves lawn chairs out this late in the season?” But watching their industriousness was worth the chair cushions.

That was six places ago.

Sometimes we move and think it will be forever. But there are no guarantees, as the 861,664 families who lost homes in foreclosures last year can probably tell you (CNN Money). As could the people who have lost homes to storms, floods, wild fires, and all manner of war and destruction in various parts of the world.

We have no guarantees that whatever we call home will withstand the variety of potential hazards that might befall us. Of course, in odd circumstances when ours survives and the neighbors’ don’t, relief isn’t necessarily our first response. After hurricane Ike, one house  remained standing in Gilchrist, Texas, their neighbors’ homes reduced to beach debris (ABC News).  No power, no water, all gone. The survivors had mixed feelings.  But at Christmas, the owners of the last house standing strung lights on their porch (CNN). They plan to rebuild.

last house

We nest on, despite the ephemeral nature of, well, everything, and engage in ritualistic and symbolic gestures of making home, where ever that might be.

 So, tonight I made a banner for my blog.


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design, environment, home, nesting

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Love the way you wove all that together.

And you KNOW I can't resist anything with squirrels. (have you met our resident squirrel, by the way? the one who cooks and can't afford capital letters? he's worth reading...all the archives.)

Mind if I put up my feet on your coffeetable?
Lovely! I was an adult before I knew it takes about 3 years to adapt to living in a new place.
I like this nesting thing, and I 'm a guy (ok, maybe a little weird). I just can't think of a good cliche to cover this - maybe "Home Sweet Home."
I wonder about the etymology of squirrel...from the OF escuireul from Latin sciurus, if it has some connection with scurrilous, and their mocking defiance. I think they have secret hand signs directed toward us that we don't understand, but it cracks them up every time.

I have a post on just that defiance here on OS, ce n'est pas un écureuil.

Nice to see you here, hope you stay for a while and I look forward to more.
I can relate, as I struggle to hand on the QuiXand Ranch, trying to make a living too far from the city. Welcome.
I see you've put out a nice welcome mat. Wish I had brought muffins now. :-D

Welcome to OS. A fine introductory post, too. Excellent work.

I can see you'll find a niche here, my friend. I've not been here long myself, but it's been a tumultuous time of transition, and yet it's nice to hear someone speak of the OS environment in purely positive terms. Welcome.
Well said. You are in the right place.

"Yes please." I love it!
I hereby dub this post "The Anti-Flounce."
Home is where the heart is, so they say, if so, I've left pieces of my heart scattered every which way. I have lived so many places in my life, I can't even remember them all, let alone count them all. The bottom line is that makes me very adaptable, but it also leaves me one of those gypsy-types who really don't know where to call home.
On the technical side, I very much like your embedding the location you're linking to within a sentence at the end of the sentence.

Is that a standard convention in the stylebooks nowadays? (I haven't looked at either AP or Chicago since before the dot-com era).
Great piece, great sentiment, welcome!

VR: I can't speak to the style guides you mentioned, but it's not in the Canadian Press guide. It's something I've been teaching my new media students for years. Maybe Merc8tor knows differently.
I couldn't find me in your friends list :(
Ohh well.... nice banner and welcome to the OS!
Lovely post. I like that you took 2 seemingly opposing ideas, nesting and the intransient nature of life, and wove them together into something greater and more interesting than either are on their own.
I'm a big map freak, and I love your banner. Even more, I love this post, and what it says about mobility, and reminds us that for many, mobility is forced upon them.
P.S. Love the new avatar. If I squint I can almost actually see you!
I thought you would never invite us over to the real house warming party. Rumor had it, you were still unpacking! Glad to see you have made a commitment to hang around the neighborhood and live here. It's wonderful - no papers, mortgage or lease. Please leave an extra key under the mat, okay?
Greetings pilgrim., your search has ended. Welcome to the OS (which really stands for out-standing in secret code).
Beautiful banner and a very wonderful post...a post that has left me feeling very grateful.
I like this blog and this concept.
I would drop off a plate of cookies if I could figure out to stuff them through the parallel port...welcome!
From a compulsive nester, welcome to your own lovely new blog!
Welcome. Glad to meet you, neighbor! Stay awhile.
Welcome to the neighborhood. Always nice to have a good writer move in. Be over in a bit with a casserole.
Wow—I feel all warm and fuzzy! (well, I’m always a little fuzzy)

This is so cool—virtual muffins, cookies, and casseroles. Do people gain virtual weight here?

I don't know if I'll be able to keep up with most of you terrific, prolific writers--partly because there's just so much to read...

Verbal and emma peel—I do the end cites with inline links because it just makes sense to me. And I do suggest the same to my students. Not in any style guide that way, though.