On Sunday, May 23, I noticed a flurry of activity on my patio. Quietly opening the sliding door, I stepped out in time to see a mourning dove placing nesting materials into her chosen spot to lay her eggs. She turned to look me in the eye, letting me know she was staying awhile, and then continued to build her nest on the patio wall in a hanging pot.
Almost in confirmation of her communication to me, her mate flew over and perched on the edge of the earthenware pot. Both birds eyed me without fear and I gave them my quiet blessing for their offspring.
Papa dove comes back daily so mama dove can fly off for food and water, and, so far, bathroom privileges. When she returns to the nest, papa leaves again and perches on one of the utility lines on the street.
The day before mama dove came I had placed an already-bloomed orchid plant in a wall-mounted, hand-painted earthenware pot in anticipation of a possible new bloom. Instead, it seems we will now have mourning dove chicks born on top of the orchid plant. Now this is a mourning dove with good taste.
My neighbors tell me I need to shoo the bird away and destroy the nest. Somehow that does not seem right with nature so I choose to live with the bird for a few weeks and enjoy the fledgling chicks when they hatch.
What is most interesting about this bird is how she seems to trust that nothing will bother her chicks. In fact, when my grandsons (ages 8 to 11) are here and pass through the patio on the way to the pool, mama dove just calmly watches.
Today something changed. Upstairs in my condo, I kept hearing a mourning dove’s song nearby. It was too close to be coming from the patio below the upstairs balcony so I went to the balcony door and opened it. There, perched on the railing, was papa dove singing his song. As I was to discover in the next few minutes, he had come to me with the news that one of the two eggs had fallen out of the nest.
Papa dove met me downstairs on the patio as I came upon the broken egg. Looking at papa and mama on the nest, I let them know how sad I felt. Shortly after I picked up the broken egg shell, papa dove flew away to perch again on the utility wire above the street.
Some time later in the afternoon, I noticed mama dove flying away from the nest in pursuit of food and papa perching on the utility wire above us. Quickly I opened the sliding door to take a peek at the last little egg and, behold, there was a baby chick plus an unhatched egg in the nest! So papa dove really had brought a birth announcement instead of a death notice!
The significance of all this has only a slight relationship with my usual blog subjects of women and equality; yet, it is momentous in the messages one can glean from the mourning doves, both male and female,following the course of nature to birth their chicks.
Male doves, just like male humans, are proud when the offspring are born. The female (of both species)is just as proud but far busier than the father, who has the time to go out and brag to friends and neighbors about the glorious new chick in the nest.
Unlike human males, male birds have never asserted their exalted status and superiority over female birds. Male birds play the role of the proud father and a co-provider easily. They love strutting and puffing up feathers while showing off to females, but they have never found it necessary to build the male ego by declaring to be a cut above the female.
Ancient legends say that mourning doves are prophets bringing messages of wisdom to humankind: Mourn what has passed but awaken to the promise of the future.
This pair of nesting doves at St. Augustine Beach reminds us that balance in nature comes when the male of the species is supportive of the female and the female is supportive of the male. It takes both the male and the female to continue existence on this earth. When the two sexes are in harmony, so is the world.
What also has meaning in this mourning dove story is that the nesting began on Pentecost Sunday (May 23 this year), a day of deep significance for at least two of the world’s monotheistic religions.
Pentecost originated from the Jewish Feast of Weeks, fifty days after Passover, when Moses was given the Ten Commandments and Hebrews were freed from bondage.
Christianity recognizes Pentecost as the birth of the early church when the Holy Spirit descended upon the many circles of people who were followers of Christ and united them all into one body.
What the mourning doves and Pentecost seem to represent today is awareness that there is something out there in nature that gives people a purpose greater than themselves. This “something out there in nature” is whatever you wish to call it; what is important is that you respect the message we are tuning in on.
It is best we seek and find that purpose as equal partners, male and female, rich and poor, educated and ignorant, and people of all colors, before the environmental damages from oil spills, pesticides and modern warfare bring back the Holy Spirit.
This time She comes with fire in Her eyes for the scientific and spiritual blasphemy we have allowed to consume us today.