The osprey season at Hog Island in Maine has almost drawn to a close. The three chicks all flew from the nest and are living nearby, learning to perfect their flying and fishing skills. Next month they will undertake the long migration flight to South America. We, who watch regularly, know that we will probably see the parents back next year with a new nest. But the chicks, whom we have been studying avidly for the past three-four months, will disappear out of our lives for good.
Some of the 2000+ viewers are already feeling the pang of the empty nest. On the chat, where information, screen captures, and sightings are exchanged, people report tears and an empty feeling. We joke about osprey addiction and withdrawal symptoms, empty nest syndrome, etc. What has happened, is that people became deeply attached to the family life of these birds. This connection was very strong and filled a need for many people. And now they have to let go.
In the Buddhist tradition, attachment is the root of all suffering. And learning to let go of that which you are attached to, is the key to a life without suffering. It took me a very long time to understand and accept this principle. How can I not feel attached to those I love? And this is the crux: can you learn to love without the attachment?
Attachment means that you can no longer live happily if that person/animal/object vanishes from your life. We can also be attached to our life style, our profession, our relatives, our pets, our home… and it is good to appreciate these things. But not to make our happiness depend on them.
We are, at least I am, extremely attached to our children and grandchildren. No grief is bigger than having to mourn the loss of one of these precious people. But being able to let that grief go will not diminish the love that we feel… have always felt… for them.
I try not to say things like this when someone shares their sorrow at the osprey chicks leaving the nest. But observing these reactions was the inspiration for this blog. So here’s to the Hog Island Osprey chicks, who are teaching so many people to let go, with love.