This is the story the wise woman told me:
“I was walking early in the morning, like I do every day. In the road ahead of me, I saw an eggshell, or rather a piece of one. It was about half the shell, in a beautiful blue with brown spatter-dots. It was like finding a gift in the barely dawn, so I picked it up.
Afraid that I’d crush it in my hand, I pulled out a mint container from my pocket. As luck would have it, the box was empty, and I put the egg shell in the box. It was so delicate, with such painterly colors. I wasn’t sure how I would keep or display it, but it was love at first sight.
So many questions are created by a hatched shell. What kind of bird? Where is the other part of the shell? Is the bird fluffed up and being fed? We don’t know. Finding a shell fragment is like finding half a story.
I didn’t want to chance dropping the box, so I walked back to the car and put the box with the shell on the console of my car, then returned to my walk. I thought about birds and nests and migrating, and the hard work that birds undertake just by waking up to another day. My walk seemed shorter that morning, probably because I had the shell to keep me company.
At the end of my walk, I returned to my car and looked at the egg shell. Except it wasn’t a shell anymore. It was hundreds of tiny shards in the box. I didn’t understand. No one had touched the egg shell, no one had disturbed it. I looked at the egg shell for a long time before I understood what had happened.
The shell is lined with a tough, but thin membrane. If the egg is whole and contains a yolk, the membrane helps keep the egg strong and intact. Eggs are fragile, but they must withstand being rolled by the parents feet and beaks to keep the chick forming correctly. The inner membrane helps make that happen.
But once the chick is out, there is no more use for the shell. As the membrane dries and shrinks, it pulls at the shell, allowing it to break to pieces. No evidence left that points to a nest and helpless chicks. A tiny bit of calcium blown away by a breeze, or worn into the ground by a single foot.
I kept the pieces anyway. It’s a lesson in the joy of loving something that changes, that will vanish. It was still worth the love and I’m still happy I picked it up.”
–Quinn McDonald never ceases to be amazed at the lessons nature offers. But they crumble quickly, so you have to be awake early to see them. Quinn is the author of Raw Art Journaling, Making Meaning, Making Art published by North Light.