Saturday, March 29, 2014

Joy in the Mourning

Last spring, I got out of my car and noticed a bird that was unfamiliar to me sitting in a tree, although I assumed it was a dove, and I was correct. It was a mourning dove, and it's amazing that I had never noticed them before because they are everywhere. I also had a recording of a dove on an earlier post, but it has disappeared without a trace. Eudora Welty describes it in Delta Wedding, "Over and over from the bayou woods came the one high note, then the three low notes of the dove." I wish you could hear it, but if you are interested, there's a recording here, along with a lot of other interesting information about the mourning dove, such as that it is the most widely hunted game bird in North America, and that even though 20 million are reported killed every year, there are still 350 million in the U.S., and that the oldest known mourning dove lived for more than 31 years. Some of those birds I see by the side of the road could be older than my youngest daughter.

After I noticed the dove in the tree, I saw them constantly. They sit in rows on the telephone wires or along the side of the road. They sit in the middle of the road and fly up just as you are about to run over them. They are certainly hunted around my home. I'd always heard when dove hunting season came around, but I never realized that these were the birds they were hunting.

When we had to move to the condo in July, they were a consolation to me, a bit of home in a strange land. I'd sit on the third floor balcony and they would fly around me. Sometimes one would fly right past my face. There were trees with heavy foliage very close to the balcony, we could probably have reached out and touched them, and the doves would sit in the trees and coo. Bill and I sat and watched one fly down to the ground and pick up several twigs and reject them before she finally found the perfect one, and then fly back up to the tree and do something with it there. Unfortunately, she did this behind a clump of leaves, so we couldn't watch. This happened over and over.

I tried and tried to get a picture of one, but they are so well camouflaged that they disappear into the scene around them. The picture above was taken by my friend MacBeth Derham in New York shortly after the poor bird had had a run in with a cat and lost it's tail feathers. As you can see, the ice and snow didn't chase them away, but it chased me inside, so I didn't see them in the winter, but now they are everywhere. I hear them cooing, and their mournful cry makes me happy. 

There have been many, many changes in our lives in the past year, and many surprising events--some very nice and some very unpleasant. People we love have come into our lives and people we love have gone out of our lives. And even the happy things, like my wonderful job, take a little toll on us because they require an adjustment. I am at peace, but I am exhausted. I think that little dove who survived the cat but lost a little bit of herself might be a good metaphor for the way I feel sometimes.

At the end of January, I attended a much-needed retreat at the retreat house that is pictured on the top of this page. It was amazing. It seemed as if the entire retreat had been written for me. Every topic, and many things that were just incidental, dove-tailed exactly with everything that was going on in my life. For instance, it was an Ignatian retreat, and though I had not know this beforehand, the last thing I did before leaving home was to download the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius onto my Kindle to read during the breaks. And the last meditation ended with this.

Come then my Love
My beloved rise
For see, winter is past
The rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the land
Glad songs burst forth
And we hear the voice of the dove.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up,
and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, 
I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol, 
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.
Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones, 
and give thanks to his holy name. 
For his anger is but for a moment; 
his favor is for a lifetime. 
Weeping may linger for the night, 
but joy comes with the morning. 
 As for me, I said in my prosperity, 
“I shall never be moved.” 
 By your favor, O Lord, 
you had established me as a strong mountain; 
you hid your face; 
I was dismayed. 
 To you, O Lord, I cried, 
and to the Lord I made supplication: 
“What profit is there in my death, 
if I go down to the Pit? 
Will the dust praise you? 
Will it tell of your faithfulness? 
Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me! 
O Lord, be my helper!” 
You have turned my mourning into dancing; 
you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, 
so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. 
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.
                                                           ~Psalm 30


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