Early one morning last week, I glanced out my kitchen window and noticed a mourning dove perched upon the fence. He paused to look around, as if making sure no one was looking. He hopped sideways down the fence a few quick steps and then disappeared into an effusion of jasmine.
Dainty yellow buds shivered and fell away to the ground as he rustled around in the thicket. A few seconds later, he popped back up onto the fence, tried to look nonchalant, spread his graceful wings and flew away.
A minute later he was back again. This time I noticed he had a small twig in his beak. Once again, he looked around to make sure no one was watching, and once again he plopped down into the jasmine. After another round of rustling and rummaging, he hopped back up on the fence and was off. Again.
I watched him off and on throughout the morning. He must have made 30 trips back and forth to the jasmine, each time carrying a tiny twig.
Later that afternoon, my curiosity got the better of me. I had to see what was going on, so I quietly crept down the driveway towards the jasmine to take a look.
This time of year the aroma of Carolina jasmine is so thick and sweet it makes your head hurt and so bright and pretty it makes your heart ache. I stood on my tiptoes and carefully pulled back a long wayward leafy tendril. There in the middle of a tangle of vines was a mama dove, almost the exact same shade of gray as the weathered wooden fence. An eye, perfectly black and round, stared back at me. She made no move to send me away, but sat as silent and still as a stone. I gently let the vine down, as though I were drawing a curtain, and left her to her privacy.
The next several days brought cold, razor sharp rain and whip cracking wind. After the storms passed, I peeked in on my dove to see how she had fared. I thought I might find an abandoned nest or worse. But there she was. Undaunted, she blinked the rain from her eyes and continued to sit patiently on her nest. No amount of misery was going to separate her from her eggs.
I let down the vine and left her once again to the business of brooding. As I walked back up the driveway, my mind was filled with the pitiful image of her protecting her beloved eggs with her own body as rain pelted her head and the wind rattled her delicate home of twigs.
I would do the same. The very same ancient and unseen thing that drives the mourning dove to suffer any discomfort, to bear any burden, to do whatever it takes to see her babies safely out of the nest… drives me too.