Faith, Thinkin' Out Loud

The Mourning Dove

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.

31 thoughts on “The Mourning Dove

  1. The essence of motherhood…and how amazing that you caught her on camera!

    * * *
    Other than the jasmine being in the way and creating focus problems, she’s not hard to get on camera since she has not budged an inch for more than a week. ~AM

  2. BEAUTIFUL!!! Love the pic, too. One of my customers at the bank was telling me about the killdeer that nested in his driveway this year. Three out of four eggs hatched with nothing but momma killdeer to protect them.

  3. An absolutely stunning post, not only because of the way you wrote it but also because of how much truth your words contain.

    I loved reading this.

  4. What an awesome post. You have such a way with words. I have been watching a pair of birds, don’t know what kind they are, build a nest in the top of a shed at work. There’s just a small hole for them to go through and sometimes their little twigs won’t go through and fall to the ground. When that happens, they’ll fly down, get something else and try again. So diligent and relentless to build a little house for mama.

  5. I loved this post. Beautiful photo too.
    I never knew it was spelled mourning dove. I thought they were morning doves. I will hear them differently now. Mourning.

    * * *
    They are called mourning doves because of the lamenting sound of their call.

  6. I believe that the author of this ancient and unseen thing that has dwelled in the hearts of moms and birds alike since time began, is himself ancient and unseen.

  7. “effusion of jasmine”.. what a way you have with words! That was beautiful, and so true. I would protect my boy with my life, as would you. I love the picture, too; she is a lovely momma.

  8. AM, I’ve always had a maternal instinct. It’s what made being a big sister so much fun…someone to dote on and love and watch grow…even as a little girl myself. It’s what made my years of infertility so incredibly painful…no one to dote on and love and watch grow…getting older every day, literally feeling my eggs shrivel.

    It’s also what makes being a Momma today such a joy…FINALLY…my own offspring to dote on and love and watch grow. Only this time, the instinct now has the maturity of a momma bear and not just an older sister or babysitter or aunt.

    I am constantly amazed at what I’m willing to sacrifice for this little guy in my life. I don’t cater to each whim he has, but man oh man…the pull to make sure he’s safe, happy, healthy, and loved. The intensity of it is more than I ever, ever imagined. Considering I thought I was the motherly type, it’s strength has rather caught me off guard.

    * * *
    I love the heartfelt and thoughtful way you expressed your experience of maternal instinct, first as a sister and then as a mother. You should post this on your blog for everyone to see. ~AM

  9. I don’t believe I’ve read such prose in quite a long time, it’s lovely the way you’ve described motherhood. It’s amazing how we are so alike, the dove and us.

  10. This post has hit my heart like nothing has in a very long time. Perfect timing.

    My grandson’s mother never bonded with him, she has no mother instincts at all. Something normal mothers will never understand. I have raised him since he was 5mos. old, and I am Mom to him. Yesterday he brought home an invitation for ‘Muffins with Mom’ in his 1st grade class. He ran in the door carrying that invitation, excitedly reading to me what he had wrote and the picture he had drawn of the two of us. For me.

    He wouldn’t understand in a million years why I buried my face in his little chest and the tears flowed. I was touched beyond words, yes, but mostly I grieve that this boy that I love so dearly was cheated out of the love that even a mother mourning dove has for her eggs.

    When I read your post this morning, that was it, it gave me such insight. Instinct. My instinct is we are mother and child.

    * * *
    Oh that every unwanted child would have a grandma like you Pam. God bless you as see this boy out of the nest. ~AM

  11. Gee…not only did your beautiful writing bring tears, but so did Pam’s comment.

    Clearly, I’m a sap. Wouldn’t have it any other way though.

    Beautiful picture of the mourning dove. Her eye is captivating.

  12. I have one out of the nest, who just finished her first year of college away from home. She won’t be coming home for the summer because she landed an excellent summer job which will give her great experience in her field of study.
    But her Mom misses her terribly and can’t believe how quickly she grew up and became an independent adult!!
    I still have one at home, in the 8th grade, and can’t believe my baby will be starting high school in the fall. Children are a gift, and even the mourning dove knows this.

  13. It’s so beautiful how you manage to create stories around these little things in life and relate them to the bigger picture. I love your blog and the way you look at the world.

  14. I could picture the mama bird on the nest protecting those eggs during the storm. Don’t we wish we could protect our babies from the violent storms of life? As you said in your interview for Scribbit though, AM, the storms are what chisel us into better works of art (if we let them.) However, we’d like our fledglings to do without storms that hurt their hearts. I am recommending the book When I Lay My Isaac Down (don’t know how to put italics in these comments for the title.) You won’t want to put it down. She has a new one too, A New Kind Of Normal, but you’ll want to read the Isaac one first.

  15. Oh my heart has been filled. I still like to sneak into my childrens rooms at night and watch them sleep. They are all into double digit ages but still (or maybe even more) I want to put them in that bubble and keep them safe in my little nest.

  16. Ah yes, I love your picture of the dove. She is so lovely. I’ve always thought that blue ring looks like the most delicately applied eye shadow ever. Then, they have a little blush on their cheeks…so pretty.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *