In early March, as dangerously sized and pointed icicles had finally melted from our south facing eaves, two Mourning Doves scouted our hanging baskets. The baskets are a matching coconut lined pair left out all winter for no good reason. They are an obvious good choice. I admired the dove’s judgment instantly. I quickly let go of any plans for another year of petunia filled baskets that wilt and wither in the August sun about the same time each year we forget to water them when we are busy watering ourselves. I was sipping my Sunday morning coffee as I stood in the living room watching the partner’s flutter and flit. Soon, my young daughters joined me in observing this very calming and living diorama.
By mid-morning the doves started to bring in bits of dry grass and twigs. The decision had been made, no middleman or real estate agent required. I wondered how they made this decision together and how this was communicated. Again, I admired their skill and decisiveness. We’ve had lots of bird visitors in the trees and feeders near our home; winter cardinals and jays that adorn snow covered branches, the red tailed hawk that graces the field across the street, colorful and noisy red-headed wood peckers, but I have never experienced a nest 6 inches from an 12 x 6 ft window. And just high enough to elude the cat and go completely unnoticed by our cavalier spaniel.
About this time my husband walked in the room. One of us ladies announced the guests enthusiastically, or maybe we did it all together. The lone male of our clan (pets included) pondered with little expression. When the birds had left again he moved with determination to the front door and walked the stone ledge to retrieve the baskets and promptly took them down. The sound of little girls fussing and shouting (my voice included) ensued and he was bewildered. “Ladies, birds cannot be this close to the house. I’m sorry.” We looked on as if he had strangled each lovely dove with his bare hands. We were horrified and demanded the re-placement of the baskets. The lively discussion continued as Mr. and Mrs. Mourning Dove returned. The personification began, but only encouraged by their bird behavior.
“Daddy, they’re confused they can’t find their home!” our eldest daughter pleaded.
“Home?” he replied with surprise. ” They’ve barely moved in honey.” He took a calming breath and turned to me. “Look, I grew up with the understanding that you don’t want birds nesting in your house. They can be very destructive. The doves will easily find a new place to nest in our yard.”
I looked at him perplexed with images of savage birds lifting off pieces of shingle and screen. He was promptly shunned by his daughters. One began to weep quietly. I continued to reason. I went on-line and researched a bit, called the local bird lovers store and located a dove house. $26.00 later I returned home to find the baskets were up and back in place, my entire family in the front yard and one dove swinging gently in the westward breeze. The little dove house (more of a lean-to really) is still sitting in the garage. Next year is the plan, perhaps serving as a nearby condo for the offspring, or maybe by the end of summer.
After mother dove had clearly settled in for a few days I broke the news to my loving and reasonable husband. I had learned that doves are quite prolific members of the pigeon family and we should expect to have these new vocal neighbors for the duration of summer. I also shared that my Transylvanian grandmother found the presence of birds near the house to mean good luck and with doves in particular, the reflection of a warm peaceful home. “Or lazy gardener” he replied. Touche.
I really have no idea if their new basket home will really be the doves best bet in the yard. I only know that we are already connected to the daily life of this little family in a way that mirrors our own family rituals. Up in the morning and open the shades, check on the birds. At mid-day and after school reading time, check on the birds. Getting dinner ready, the girls check on the birds. Any visitor who comes by, we enthusiastically show them the birds. At bedtime or if the TV happens to be on after dark, we shut the blinds after first checking on the birds. Any change in their appearance or milestone of our defining, I post pictures on Facebook (a small following of fans, thanks friends.).
I would like to add here that Mama Dove, named “Mrs. Flower Pots” by our daughters, gave birth to two tiny ivory shelled eggs on my Birthday, March 22nd, named “Rick” and “Chick”. If you know me, you know that I place great stock in and consider deeply all signs, especially as they occur in the natural world. It also happened to coincide with the first day after the Spring Equinox and within the three day shining glory of the much anticipated “super-moon.” I decided then that my personal intentions for the year, areas I’d like to grow in and cultivate, could be like these tiny eggs, just super-sized.
As we have followed the eggs from incubation to hatching, from downy to feathers, basket bound to fluttering new fliers, vulnerable to the elements and inability to get back into the basket (where we can feel better about protecting them), I have noticed the feelings in my heart and in my body. From delight and joy to concern and fearful nail biting suspense, meanwhile keeping it all carefully balanced so as not to scare my daughters. Like when I first discovered the empty basket or when I could not locate them in the groundcover next to our house for several hours. As I am usually quite sunny (in contrast to may many posts about death), my husband was concerned and asked right away if everything was okay and then proceeded to confidently reassure me it was the way of the dove. I believed him and he turned out to be right. Perhaps he had done his own dove research.
The cycle of life has been amplified for us this past month, inviting us to observe a tiny microcosm of life in detail as we continue to be in awe by its order and design and in this case, accelerated time line. As I consider my own eight and nine month pregnancies and the life span of so many people dear in my heart, some in their 90’s and others very new to this world, I cannot help but be moved and silenced by the mystery of these differences. From our lives as humans sharing the planet with so many living things, there are so many different timelines and ways of experiencing this mysterious and beautiful world. Our lifespan to a giant tortoise or to a long-lived woody plant like a Redwood in the pacific northwest, seems dramatically fleeting by comparison. One thing remains the same, we all begin as babies or as seeds in the nest of some one’s making.
Thank you Mr. & Mrs. Flower Pots, Rick and Chick for re-minding me of my own nest, the one I continue to create and design for myself and the many I am grateful to assist in building. And especially to Mrs. Pots, as you sat patiently with almost imperceptible movement for two weeks on your beloved eggs in rain, shine, wind and cold. I could not help but think of my own privately nurtured eggs. My eggs in the shape of dreams, goals and experiences I am also carefully tending to and in some cases, still sitting on.
And thank you, Mr. Pots. You who hovered close and supported your partner while she sat patiently, for your countless offerings and the times you briefly took her place so she could stretch her wings and find food and water. You reminded us of commitment and perseverance. And earlier today as you sat together on our front stoop, side by side, cleaning each other’s heads and necks as I pressed my camera against the window, I felt very much like I was intruding on a private moment. In tandem you took flight to reveal two tidy little mounds of poop resting side by side. One needs to be discerning when reading signs.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you Rick and Chick were around to participate in next year’s birthday celebration? What does one offer a yearling dove? Thank you, Laura, for sharing this reminder of things to which we ought to be tending.
You write so beautifully, with such a lovely mixture of gentle humor and awe. You express many things that I have not put into words for myself. Thank you for this gift.
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