It was truly a dark and stormy night. A week prior to this gawd awful wind blowing, rain pounding, deck roof slamming on the eves night, I had taken comfort in watching the Mourning Doves do a change of the guard on the nest. Every year I wait for this. Every year there are eggs; some years there are babies, some years the eggs are stolen, but every year, I wait. There is something soothing to my soul about mother nature that I don't quite get from anything else; not even from a Klondike bar during a heat wave.
Once the Mourning Doves build and sit on the nest, I look out at them often, smiling, through my glass sliding door, impulsively checking on them as one would a sleeping baby, just to reinforce that everything is right with the world. There are even those times that I’ve been known to open the glass sliding door and tweet in bird speak, or sing a lullaby, so they know that I am a friendly human. Only this time, when I looked out the window, no one was there. I was a little surprised because Doves don't typically leave the nest without reason, and when they do it is momentary. I was right. Stupidly, no sooner than I went out to the deck to stand on a chair and see the itty bitty baby for myself did the mama (or papa) bird (they look the same) come swooping at my head. Fearing decapitation, I ran inside the house and hid behind the door, like a child who had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Then slowly, I opened the door about half an inch while speaking softly to the Dove, apologizing for upsetting its day and in hopes of reinforcing that I’m a good human. After all, I just wanted...a peek.
After that, I vowed not to go out on the deck anymore, at least not until the baby had left the nest so as not to disturb their little family; but then came the storm with a vengeance and even the best intentioned plans fail. It was dark and cold and the rain was unrelenting, pounding on my windows like military personnel attacking with multiple bb guns. I could hear the roof of my deck being picked up and slammed down, up and “bam” down. The wind sounded like an angry ghost whispering in the night. I was very sick that night, in fact, I was left extremely weak from a recent round of chemo, but something told me to check on the nest. Maybe it was just natural instinct that knows that even in the most difficult of times, I am still a mother. Only twenty minutes before, the Dove was sitting on the nest looking miserable. Her wings were shifting up and down from the wind, her eyes squinting as though she could not stand the cold, or the fear. I worried that she would not stay through the night to protect her baby. She didn’t. I waited...and waited...with a sense of panic for the baby’s life growing by the minute. There is no way the baby would make it through the night without warmth, perhaps it was already dead.
And so I did what I always do in these situations, I told Richard (my better half) to go rescue the bird. I went first, peeking in the nest, afraid of touching the feathers that encompassed this little tiny life, no bigger than a golf ball. Suddenly I could see the bird’s chest slowly rise and I went into action. “You have to get the bird Richard! Get the bird!” I ran in and found a little bird-sized box, filled it with toilet paper and leaves from the now dead flowers that had been given to me during my treatment, and covered the box with a blanket. I called a local vet clinic for direction. I forgot how sick I really was while we ran into the pet store to pick up food and a feeding syringe. I didn't sleep much that night, as I kept checking on the baby bird, just to make sure it was still breathing. The first thing in the morning, Richard drove me and the little bird, barely breathing, to the local pet hospital. Thank God for the Lindsay Wildlife Museum. They couldn't tell me if this little life would live or die, only that I could call and check on it. “And when you call, ask for an update on 607.” I guess they give numbers instead of names.
For weeks I called regularly to get an update. My dad had told me the bird probably wouldn't make it. Being a farm boy he believed that when babies are removed from their natural environment they typically die. But I, being the 5th grade girl that walked 31 miles in the rain in one day to raise money for the Walk For Hope, and I, being the girl that won the 4th and 5th grade talent show without having had any talent, believed that 607 would live. I had hope.
Maybe I needed to have hope. Maybe in my world of cancer treatments and illness, and the fear of death, I needed to believe in life. Whatever the reason was, I needed 607 to live. This little baby bird represented something great that at the time I couldn't find anywhere else.
Not too long after I called to check yet again on 607. "Oh!" they exclaimed. "He is healthy and has been released into the wild!" "You mean he lived?" I asked. "Yes he did!"
On May 15, 2012, against all odds of survival, 607 extended his wings to start a new life in the wild. That is what hope is after all; in the face of fear and disenchantment, believing in the best possible outcome; holding onto faith even when the storm is pounding on your windows. Hope is what I pray for everyone. Fly little bird, fly.