on writing, rewriting, & taking notes


The last picture of the doves, May 21, 2020 (the older one was testing its wings.  They spent the rest of the day in their nests.  I checked at 8pm or so, and they were still in the nest, cuddled together.)


This morning I went to check on the mourning dove fledglings that were nesting on my balcony.  Since April 23, Shakespeare’s birth/death day, I have been watching this nest, as first the mother came and laid two eggs, then watched the fledgings slowly emerge into sunlight.  My research suggested they would be ready to leave the next Saturday, May 23.  But it is Friday, May 22, and this morning, the two parent doves were investigating what was an empty nest. After they left, I took a closer look.  In the nest was a lump of red something, resembling a dried date, and I worried it was gristle.  Had a hawk come and devoured the babies in the night?  All day I have opened and closed the sliding door, feeling sick.  I examined the ground underneath, and the woods a bit, but found nothing.  Now, about twelve hours after my discovery of the empty nest, I take another look.  I can hear the mourning doves, somehwere in the woods, cooing, the parents, I think.  Mourning.

Having spent the last month photographing the nest, posting the pictures on Instagram, getting positive responses, I wonder if I had somehow drawn attention to the nest?   I had once seen three falcons circle and sweep by very close to the terrace, an unusual occurrence, but that had been over a week ago.  Had the hawks been waiting all along, for the birds to fatten?  How terrified the babies must have been.  Had they first thought it was their mother, only to discover the truth?

What is the truth?  An empty nest, a day or two too early, a pair of parents searching the terrace.  Life is tragedy and comedy side by side, always.  A falcon didn’t eat the baby birds out of meanness, just hunger, perhaps to feed its own children.  Yet the smell of death lingers.  I light incense, knowing I will check and recheck for the next two days. I cannot shake my sadness off, or the tears.  I became too attached.

The wind is picking up.  These baby birds survived torrential rain, wind, and even bitter cold.  They made a home in a bare scrap of twigs on an open grid floor, open to the elements on three sides.  I hear another bird chirping over the wind.  Who knows what happened, after all?

Mourning Dove

Two mourning doves have nested on the floor of my apartment balcony. Two because the male and female birds, mother and father, take turns sitting on the eggs in twelve-hour shifts.  I think the babies just hatched because the gestation period of two weeks is over, and because if I look closely, albeit quickly, I think I see a few baby feathers under whichever parent is on the nest.  This is the way the parents protect the newborns, by keeping them under wraps for three or four days.

The wet woodlands behind my home are full of loud bird noises all day and night.  Grackles, cardinals, crows, gold finches, blue jays, sparrows and hummingbirds chase one another with the abandon of the season. Owls and falcons, too, though they are largely hidden.

Everyday, I peek on the nest, hoping the family makes it.  It has been rough weather with wind, gale, gust, alternating with sunny calm. Even now as I type, the sun alternates with flakey snow.  Another week should see them safely off.  Meanwhile,  tiny tree frog has taken residence in one of the flower pots, and a fat bumble bee flies about.

I am so lucky to live in this bounty, this beauty.



When we get to the other side of this

Indira Ganesan, Sky over Land, 2020

If we are not struggling to put food on the table, if our health is relatively good, we will have become better cooks. We might be healthier because junk food isn’t so readily available (or is it?) It took me three weeks to decide that buying ice cream was not extravagant. We might be better gardeners, better at fixing things that are broken, like leaks.  We might be on the whole more hygienic. Our hands will be cleaner, if drier.  We might look younger because we have relied less on, say, make-up, and chemical beauty fixatives.  We might have gained several pounds.  We might be better read.  We might have taken more classes online, or at least thought about it.  We will have all benefitted by commuting less if we are lucky. Will the ozone be better for our lack of traffic? I hope so.

Yet, every night in my town, packs of cars honk their horns to honor front-line workers in noisy cacophony.  Me, I think, why not light a candle or simply clap hands instead of produce fuel pollution and noise pollution?  What a world of difference between a lovely sprint of music from a clarinet or saxaphone than a car horn.

But I am probably in the minority on this.  Meanwhile, the rain has been streaming all day, and on my balcony, a mourning dove has decided to nest.  In two weeks or less, two little mourning doves might emerge into this world.  She and her partner have built the nest on the metal grid floor, with no cover or protection.  All last night she sat, undeterred.  Today, I think her mate might be taking a turn; he faces the other way.

A siren sounds in the distance.  In this bucolic place I call home, the sound is rare during our not-quite-lockdown.  Is is an accident being responded to, or someone newly sick with Cover-19?  Silence again, except for the rain.

Today I found myself making jam out of strawberries going bad, part of the domestic turn our sheltering in has brought on in the world.  I don’t know what to watch at night, having finished the entire series of Kavanaugh, Q.C., a show I highly recommend.  We want solutions in this world, even if it is a small made-for-tv trial in which the innocent retain their freedom.  I find I cannot comment on the national scandal.



%d bloggers like this: