Saturday, April 19, 2014
The Doves of Easter
At the head of our bed, there is a window. On the ivy-covered ledge of that window, a dove hunkered down. At first, it was just the rain and the wind, but then as that rain turned to hail, then sleet, then snow...dear Lord, snow in mid April...she tucked in more, and her feathers fluffed out huge to create a warming pocket of air for the new life beneath her.
From beneath her, a little head poked, her one child for the spring nest. It would peer out, slightly damp, and then tuck back in to the mother's breast.
"Do you think the baby will be OK," my soft-hearted wife asked. "Should we set up a heater or crack the window or something?" I assured her that we should not. I'm not quite Picard-hard-core with the Prime Directive when it comes to wild things, but I'm close. Plus, it's a couple of degrees warmer right by the house, and the ivy and the overhang keep off most of the rain. They would be fine, I said, and I felt the odds were mostly in their favor.
All day long, the wind gibbered and scratched at the house, and the trees rocked, and rain spattered against the window.
Late that afternoon, I checked in, and the chick was alone and wet in the nest.
I wondered where the mother had gotten to. The father, well, he hadn't been around for a bit, which is strange for doves. I had seen them together in the nest in the building of it, but not again for a while. There are cats and several hawks in the neighborhood, and I wondered if perhaps that might be the cause of that.
And so the mother had left, presumably to get food. I checked in again at dusk. Still no mother.
But the next morning, she was there, fluffed plump to warm her storm-bedraggled little one. I looked up dove parenting techniques, and discovered that the she was a he, as dove parents switch off incubation duties and foraging duties, with the father taking the morning shift, and the mother the night.
I know how that is.
In the morning today, the little one was by the father's side. Then, mid-morning as I puttered in the house, it was walking the ledge. It was fully formed now, blossomed from dust into something alive in just days. It was a small dove in its own right, a new living creature. It looked ready to test its wings, and the father watched with his calm dark eye as it walked back and forth, back and forth.
As the sun fell in the sky, bringing to an end this day in between Good Friday and Easter morning, I looked again to the ledge of the window.
The nest was empty, a simple circlet of twigs. The doves had flown.
It felt right, somehow.