Flying Lessons

Earlier this summer, a pair of mourning doves took up residence in a well-constructed nest that had been vacated by its previous tenants last year. In real estate, location is everything, and these doves definitely picked a prime location. The nest is nestled safely and securely on top of one of the shutters that frames one of our living room windows, and it is tucked underneath the overhang of the roof. It provides protection from the elements and predators, but thankfully, not from my watchful eye.

Since the pandemic has continued to make home the destination of choice, I quickly became enthralled by the new tenants. Their gorgeous gray coloring, large, expressive eyes, and gentle cooing set them apart from the other birds, and I immediately took absolute delight in watching their life in the nest unfold before my eyes.

The doves put their personal touch on their move-in ready nest, in the form of a few more twigs and bits of grass, and they settled in nicely. At first, they would come and go throughout the day, and then one day, I noticed that there was a dove in the nest at all times, leading me to suspect that they were expanding their family. My suspicions proved to be correct.

I later learned that the male dove takes the day shift with the eggs, while the female dove takes the night shift. This round-the-clock nesting continued, until one day, I caught a glimpse of two tiny, fuzzy heads poking out from under their dad’s wing. Their family had multiplied, and so had my joy.

Over the next couple of weeks, I marveled at how quickly the baby birds grew in both size and in confidence. As I watched their daily progress, while simultaneously managing the daily routine in my own nest and the comings and goings of my own two birds, I found myself learning lessons, both old and new.

Choose a good partner. Both as a couple without baby doves and as a couple raising a family, the doves impressed me with their teamwork. They both were involved with taking care of the nest, safeguarding and teaching their babies, and feeding their family. They apparently mate for life, so, when their baby birds leave the nest, they still have each other. It reminded me of the importance of having a good partner by your side, and I feel grateful to have a boyfriend who loves and supports me and my daughters.

There’s no place like home. The doves made that nest their own, and even when their family outgrew it, for awhile, they would come back to our front yard for visits. As I prepare to take my oldest daughter back to college for her sophomore year and watch my youngest daughter start her senior year of high school, my heart breaks a bit. I am excited for both of them and the opportunities that they will have, but I miss my oldest daughter when she is away at school and have anticipatory grief at becoming an empty nester next year. My girls will always have a home to come back to, even if it’s just to visit, so, I hope that they do. I hope the doves do, too, as they have been known to return to their nests for several seasons.

Stand your ground. On more than one occasion, I witnessed the dove parents let other inhabitants of our front yard, such as squirrels or other birds, know in no uncertain terms that they needed to get away from their babies. Early one morning, the entire dove family was perched in a small tree, not far from their nest, when a curious squirrel made his way toward them. Those peaceful mourning doves morphed into fierce forces to be reckoned with in no time at all, as they went after the squirrel with their wings flapping and beaks at the ready. I wasn’t about to let any harm come to them on my watch, so, I ran outside and chased the squirrel away, which I am sure was a sight to see! They didn’t need my help, though, as they knew what to do and did it. In a world full of danger and uncertainty, it’s important to protect ourselves and our loved ones as best we can and to not allow others to intimidate us into inaction and silence. The doves also reminded me that I cannot protect everyone, like my girls, from harm, but I can teach them the skills they need to navigate the world and trust them to spring into action when needed.

Lead by example. It was so sweet to watch the baby birds learn new skills, such as how to find food and how to fly, under the tutelage of their parents. The parent doves seemed so patient and nurturing, as they took the time to repeatedly demonstrate various skills. When one of the baby birds flew a few feet for the first time, after watching his parent fly back and forth between the same two branches over and over again, I jumped with pure glee and pride. It was a lesson that our actions speak louder than words, in that people constantly are looking at us and how we behave, at home, work, and in our communities, to learn from us. It also was a lesson that we need to take the time to teach others what they need to know to survive and thrive in this world and to support them as they learn and grow, no matter how many times it may take.

Learn to fly, and fly away. I knew that the dove family would eventually leave, and they did. That knowledge did not mean that I was happy to lose my feathered friends, because I certainly wasn’t. I really do miss those little birds, but I also know that they are doing what they were born to do and would not be happy being confined to one nest and yard forever. As a parent, that lesson is the most bittersweet of all, because I want my daughters to live their own lives and see the world, yet I still want them here with me. One day soon, both of my girls will leave this nest for good, and I hope and pray that they soar to great heights, just like the mourning doves.

That’s another story. . .

Categories: That's Another Story

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