Encounters of the “Bird Kind”

Joseph J Kozma

It happened as expected. This is the fifth fall that “my pair of doves” returned to their nest next to my porch light to tell me good bye before leaving for the winter. That happens every fall. They sit there proudly with bright eyes that are almost smiling hoping that I would congratulate them for having hatched five sets of two eggs during the summer months.

The summer starts with a different visit, jubilation. The two of them, husband and wife for life, come back from wherever they have been, work a while on the nest then sit there together for a day, relate messages to me about their winter. I pretend to understand. Then he leaves her alone. I see him on the brick walk off and on while she attends to her chores namely hatch the eggs and raise the babies according to unwritten but well-practiced acts of love. The two trade places at times but I have never observed that I just assume that it is she who has contact with me whenever I come and go. She is just about 8 feet from me. But it is a semi-vertical distance, she knows that I cannot fly nor levitate. So, we communicate daily through the summer with the final communication of the season in the fall

A few years ago I found a baby dove in the backyard in the grass. Its feathers were not developed; the poor thing was stubby and cold. I picked it up; it seemed to be thankful as it enjoyed the warmth of my hands. I saw no dove-parents around. Was it an orphan? It did not really matter. It was late afternoon, it needed a shelter, I took it inside. It felt comfortable on the sunporch-floor. It spent the night there and two more days and another night. That was the time for its feathers to break out of their “cocoons “and make it look like a bird rather than a hedgehog. Those were two happy days for it. It loved to sit on my lap, perch upon my shoulders, run around surefootedly but never tried to fly. It ate bird food but only if I pecked on the food with my fingers. It read the signal. I guess I was a surrogate mother. Then, I went outside with it on my shoulder. It sat patiently. I did not know but it apparently it made up its mind. When I opened the door to get back in, it took off flying into the neighboring trees. I felt happy for it and for me too.

I have had many encounters with birds of all kind, robins, cow birds, pheasants, wild ducks, loons and pigeons. They all had different personalities and body language. It is not an accident that doves are associated with peace. They are peaceful, Intelligent and patient, just the opposite of some people and nations. There have been occasions when hundreds of them were sent up in the air to celebrate a peaceful event. White balloons can do that too, but I prefer doves, and let’s not forget the white dove that suddenly appears during a magic show.

Through history of religion and art doves were depicted in a profusion of text and pictures. From the Catacombs to ultra-modern paintings, from Augustine of Hippo to Princeton University Library. After Noah sent a dove scouting for land, it returned with an olive branch.

Doves are symbolic not just of peace but love too. In ancient cultures doves were love’s messengers. They were friends of deities.

Over the years various Peace Congresses used the pictures of doves as symbols. They appear in religious contexts and give inspiration to the military and super peaceful groups.

And they are in our backyards. They know us and can be a part of our intimate environment. Their ancestors have known many figures in human history, Pagans, Jews, Christians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese and very likely many others. Doves can bring the world to us.

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