About a week ago, as cases of coronavirus multiplied across the country and social distancing became the new trend, a visitor arrived on my front porch. Unexpected, unannounced, save for the deposit of a tiny package.
Having spent the weeks before this cooped up with a strep infection that landed me on the couch for weeks, I was eager to connect with the world outside my living room. Due to COVID-19 descending upon us and forcing sudden quarantines, social contact continued to be limited. And by limited, I mean there wasn’t any outside our four walls.
When I sensed the visitor lingering about the porch, I have to admit there I felt simultaneous delight and dread. I wanted to open the door and have closer contact, but my presence could cause fear. I kept my distance silently and tiptoed away from the front door.
I was walking toward the kitchen the next morning when my peripheral vision spotted a flash of movement out the same window. I paused, thinking perhaps it was a delivery person who would ring the bell in a moment. Silence. I circled back and peered out: no package. No delivery truck. No visitor lingering. Did I imagine the elusive visitor?
The next morning, on the same route to the kitchen, my husband said, “Look who’s back.” I stood for a moment listening, because there was nothing to see from where I stood. Then, the flash of movement happened again. I walked to the window and saw not one, but two, visitors. Their busy movements caused wing-like shadows to flicker on the stucco. The hanging basket containing a plant about to bloom captured their interest intensely.
“No no noooooo…” I said. “They can’t be here again! Last time, it was such a mess when they were here!”
“Ahhh, yup,” replied my husband. “But I don’t think we can get them to go…do you want me to try?”
“Yeah…otherwise, we’re in for a month of crap.”
My husband leapt up and went out the front door. “Hey! You can’t be here! Go!” He scolded. Their eyes got wide. They took off. The hanging basket swung back and forth as they abandoned it. We turned to each other.
“We better check the basket,” we sighed.
As he stopped it from swinging, it tilted, and there within the now-flattened stalks of budding flowers was a tiny egg. He looked at me.
“I guess they’re staying. We’ll just have to deal with the crap later.” I said.
We now have two visitors staying here in our hanging basket. They have sufficiently flattened the plant. I will have to add the cost of a new kalanchoe to their bill. And although I have not seen any bird poop on the basket or the railing or the sidewalk yet, I know it’s coming. Two years ago, their little family of four perched and pooped and perched and pooped in the same basket for over a month.
Mama Bird, a mourning dove, is nestled in the basket, which spins gently in the afternoon breeze. I don’t know if birds can have motion sickness, but I sure would. And because she sits upon her egg, she probably doesn’t have “mourning” sickness. She’s out there in the bright sun. She’s out there in the chilly rain. Although Papa Bird pops in occasionally, the dove is mostly alone. She is in the same spot all day and all night. Waiting.
And that’s when a thought occurred to me. The bird and I had a lot in common. I felt like I not only could follow her example, but needed to, with a similar sense of duty and purpose. In this time of quarantines and shut-downs, we are all shut in. We are all sitting in our various nests, at times spinning and feeling queasy, and at other times sitting still in focused determination to see something through. The dove doesn’t question and never looks bothered. She and her mate have selected as safe a place as possible while they wait for nature to do its work. The cracking open of a tiny egg will produce new life. There is nothing doves nor people can do to hasten the fissure that will lead to release. And Mama Bird cannot – will not – venture beyond the basket right now. She is essentially strapped in until nature decides that it’s safe for her family to come out. Her flight would endanger more than herself.
My hazel eyes look through the shutters at her; her brown eyes gaze at me through the tendrils of the dying plant. She protects life. I protect life. She waits. I wait. She appears to watch the sunset. And as I do, I remind myself that just like the egg, the quarantines will fall away. We may have to deal with a bunch of crap before life feels okay again. But let’s be willing to do just that, because there IS beauty that awaits us when we emerge from our nests. Like Emerson said, we must “Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.”