Saturday, March 8, 2014

Anticipating Life

Every year I hear them, usually in April (and if I'm lucky, in March.)

The first time it always arrests whatever it is I'm doing. If I'm talking, I stop in mid-sentence just to listen. And I smile. 

What I find myself doing in the extremely long month of February (only that long because it is so very cold) is dreaming of hearing their voices again: the billing and cooing of the mourning doves. 

They started nesting around here about 10 years ago and they come back year after year and raise their young. It is one of the very first signs of spring for me, long before robins nest on our property (because our property, though treed and replete with areas to nest in, also is the litter-box of all of the neighborhood cats. So-o, not prime real estate for robins!)  And before I go any further, let me explain that for me it does not matter what the calendar says the first day of spring is. I live in the Maritimes, and for me, that means that spring takes its good sweet time getting here: any time between mid April and mid May usually. The temperatures need to be consistently above 10º Celsius (for my American friends, that's 50º Fahrenheit) for at least two weeks for it to be "Spring" for me.
Photo "Two Mourning Doves" courtesy of
Liz Noffsinger at

More and more often as February turns to March and beyond, I find myself listening each morning for the contented cooing of the mourning doves, singing soothing songs of hope, devotion and peace to my discouraged, apathetic and stressed-out heart. I do it without even realizing it. They come back to this area while winter still has me in its gnarly, sadistic grasp and they speak reassurance that warmer times will come. And I so need that reassurance: even though my brain knows that spring always does come, my heart comes to the brink of despair every year.  It is not enough to hear someone say that they have seen pussy-willows, or that they've seen robins hopping about. These things are hearsay and I've always been about first-hand experience.

And it is not enough for me to simply survive winter, to grit my teeth and bear the cold, the bulky clothing, the slippery footing, hoping that it will eventually pass. I must know that I know that I know that there will be an end to it. Not to know it intellectually, but deep in my inner being. The song of the mourning doves accomplishes that. It gives me that assurance which carries me through to the time when spring actually does come.

And every day that I don't hear them, there is a vague disappointment - not a conscious one to be sure, at least not often - but there nonetheless. And my heart has to process the lack of reassurance and reset its hope again for hearing that sound, the harbinger of spring even while winter thinks it "has" me. 

"Maybe tomorrow," my heart says to itself. "Maybe tomorrow they will be here."

And so I live today, this 24-hour period, accepting what is. And I live in anticipation of dove-song, knowing it means that life and green and warmth will come again. And soon.

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