August 18, 2010

The Unknowable Story

In the weeks prior to my trip to New York, I'd been keeping my eye on a bird's nest outside, which had been built up above the walkway on our floor.

I stopped short the first time I noticed the nest, spotting the one beady little black eye of the mother bird, sitting ever so still as I approached, keeping me in her sight and hoping I'd just keep going. It was a Mourning Dove, which, if you aren't familiar, are some of the dumbest birds on the planet. They're so sweet looking, and make such a lovely sound when they coo, however, that you can't help but look at them and admire them.

Of course, I stopped and just stared back at her for a minute. She never moved, not even a twitch, as I was too far below her to be an immediate threat. Mourning Doves are very devoted parents and their eggs are almost never unattended. I know this because I've had them lay eggs on my porch in previous homes, in some of the dumbest places a bird could put a nest. (Thus my assessment of their smarts...or lack thereof.) They'll nest most anywhere, even if it's somewhere people are all. the. time. and they have to fly away 200 times a day, then come right back.

Every day I would walk under her on my way out to the carport, then again on my way back, each time looking up to see if she was there. She always was. I got into the habit of saying, "Hi, Mama," each time, even though I knew it was silly and she was probably more afraid than comforted by my attention. I left for New York, anticipating that the eggs might be hatched by the time I got back and looking forward to hearing the persistent little chirps of hungry baby birds each day.

When I got back from the trip, it was very late and very dark, so I wasn't able to see anything as I trudged on by with my luggage. The next day I didn't even think about it, as I rushed out to go see my mom after being gone; I'd fallen out of my habit.

But coming home later that day, I remembered to look up as I got close. And stopped short again. Mama Bird was gone. There were no little bird heads, no little hungry bird chirps. Nothing but a nest that looked sadly empty.

Crestfallen, I looked down, looking for the tell-tale signs of little eggs that had fallen out of nest or, worse, little birds that had. Nothing but four, smallish, odd-shaped drops of something black, which could have been droppings or something more heartbreaking. There was no way to tell. I looked around me as through there were going to be someone there to tell me what had happened. Looked up again. Looked down some more. Still nothing.

I live in a complex with mostly senior citizens. It's possible that I was the only one who ever saw the nest, as the average eyesight of my neighbors is probably closer to "legally blind" than "20/20." There simply wasn't anybody to ask about what happened. The bird certainly wasn't going to come back and tell me anything. There's no way they could have hatched and fledged in the short time I was gone. The location was such that I really don't believe a cat could have wreaked havoc and hurt Mama or the babies. I just couldn't puzzle out why the nest was now empty. I felt a little hollow.

Day after day, I've kept looking up to see if Mama is back, hoping against hope. She isn't, of course. I still stop each time and look up, look down, look around, looking for answers that aren't there. If anyone actually saw me, they'd probably think I was missing a few screws in the noggin...or that I fit in around here a bit more than they realized. But there is never anybody about to see anything. 

Today, I finally realized that this is the unknowable story. It's a small, insignificant mystery that will never be solved. The final pages of a book that don't get written. Lacking closure, as the vernacular would have it.

I never thought I would be sad that a Mourning Dove had left my life unexpectedly. Dumb bird.

I miss you.