Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Cuckold  ˈkəkəld, -ōld ORIGIN: late Old English, from Old French cucuault, from cucu ‘cuckoo’ (from the cuckoo's habit of laying its egg in another bird's nest). The equivalent words in French and other languages applied to both the bird and the adulterer.
     For the second time this summer a pair of purple house finches have built a nest in the corner of our front porch. They are hidden up there on the ledge where we have placed a shallow clay pot liner. We love the little parents who scold us when we walk out to get the mail. They fly to the crab apple tree and say, cheee, cheee, cheee. Their first nesting hatched three babies, so we were shocked when this time around there were seven eggs! An ominously large brood for a little mother to raise. But wait! When I looked more closely (we lifted the liner down for a few seconds to peek in because we’re curious, and then quickly replace it before the parents die from anxiety.) Suddenly, I realized that two of the eggs were not like the others. (I could hear that Sesame Street song in my head urging me to decide which one was different.) I looked again. Two were noticeably larger and different in color. More brown speckles. I know that Cow birds are like the English cuckoo bird playing a nasty bully-trick on honest little birds, sneaking in and dropping a giant egg or two that when hatched will put to death the natural children, and with their voracious appetites, will stress the parents who can’t seem to tell the difference between the interlopers and their own poor, starving babies. So the cuckoo is the source of the word “cuckold.” The story of the sailor who has been away at sea for over a year, who returns home to find his wife has a baby. Thus the saying emerged: “I’ve been cuckholded!”
     I didn’t expect to find the cowbird in an urban setting. At our house? I have no problem interfering with their ugly agenda. I remove the two eggs, take them to the driveway and smash them on the cement, heartlessly killing the little alien invaders. I’m not looking too deep for meaning here. Or am I? Why should I turn every story into a Me Story? Unless God means me to reflect on this passion I have for rescuing. Maybe removing cuckoo eggs is not what I’m supposed to be doing. Maybe I’ve misunderstood the difference between selfishness and stewardship? Perhaps my zeal for finding and saving has more to do with my own needs than it does for helping others? This might make more sense if you knew I was struggling with boundaries. More wisdom to learn, even at my age.
Finch Nest
Finch nest on Toad Hall porch.

Cowbird Eggs
Cowbird eggs in hand.

Cowbird eggs in finch nest jpeg


Kim Shirk said...

Margie - Your writing and insight are amazing. As I was reading, it was as if I could hear you saying this. I appreciate your transparency, authenticity and love of others. Keep on fighting for the underdogs... love you! Kim

Georgia Fyke Nesbitt said...

Apparently "horn" and "shoehorn" are also synonyms for cuckold. I love etymology.

liz@carpeseason said...

What a sweet reflection (once again). I feel like some of God's most gifted people, at least the ones that I know. struggle continuously with boundaries.
But selfishness or saving, I'm glad you removed the intruders.
(Bird question: Do the cow bird parents ever come back for their invading babies?)

sf said...

Wow, those 2 eggs sure looked unlike the rest! What a perfect location for a nest! Sweet! And a perfect spot to peek in and save the baby birdies from invasion. I had never heard of such a thing as another bird dropping their eggs into nests that weren't their own. Good peeking, good bird life-saving, and good pictures!

Anonymous said...

Wish it were possible to be totally selfless in caregiving. We can't escape wanting something for ourselves. Being created as relational beings our experiences of others and self are always interactive. It is okay with God to get something for ourselves, I think. I believe the self-reflective process of our own motivations and what it is we are wanting is the key to being able to submit our wants and needs to our Father in Heaven. We then ask for His grace and the presence of the Holy Spirit to mediate in that process of caregiving, doing the best we can and making the best of it.
That you would object to the boundary crashing of the cow bird only speaks a sense of justice and who will stand for justice if we do not, in all humility make that attempt. God is a God of both justice and mercy.
If all creation groans and waits to be set free from its bondage of decay, waiting for the children of God to come into our full glory so that it may also be set free, then to act now as best we can seeing your way to set a boundary where deception has held sway is to take up that glory now--shining brilliant and splendid with the full force of brain/body/soul/spirit action--fight mode smashing those eggs. Caregiving! So that you seek that glory, that our Father is most desperate to impart, can that be a fault?
Most glorious sister, I thank God for you and count it a pleasure to stand with you.

Heather said...

I also have never heard of a cowbird and it's egg laying tendencies. Thank you for sharing this story and I would have done the same thing as you did, not that that makes it right, but I agree with your judgement. I always enjoy myself when I read here. Thank you.