By Lois Hoffman
I love all the seasons and there is no way I could live in a state where I couldn’t experience all four. Some transitions are subtle but when spring finally breaks, it seems like nature explodes all at once.
I don’t like to pick on poor March but, to me, it is the ugliest month. If I survive that, I know I will be aptly rewarded. I call March the gray month because the lawns, woods and bushes are all gray with no green or sign of life. Then, like magic, it all explodes into a sea of color and rebirth.
I also like to watch the season creep northward. Splitting my time between Indiana and Michigan the last few years, I have actually been able to see spring “crawl” northward. From Economy, IN, we go south about 30 miles to Connorsville and there is forsythia, daffodils and tulip trees in blossom. In a couple days, Economy sees the same scene unfold. Folks have often said that spring crawls northward about 20 miles a day. I feel blessed to watch this progression that many don’t get to witness.
Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels
Spring has an order each year. It may not always arrive the same time, but it always follows the same order. Forsythia, daffodils and certain flowering shrubs usher the season in, followed in turn by tulips, crabapples and a host of other plants that know when it is their turn to shine. The same holds true for forests; certain trees like buckeyes are the first to give us glimpses of green followed by all the other species until the forest is a green canopy.
I always marvel at even a single leaf. You can almost watch it unfold over a couple days. It is still mind-boggling for me to comprehend that every leaf on a tree is doing the same thing at the same time; each tree of the same species in a forest is going through this same process at the same time; and each forest in an area is also putting on the same show at the same time. Wow, how nature does woo us!
We have had an extra marvel to watch unfold this spring. A pair of mourning doves chose to build their nest in a shrub just a few feet outside of Ron’s kitchen window. We watched, after the female laid her eggs, one of them was always on the nest. By the same token, they also watched us, hopefully giving them a little entertainment as they sat diligently on the nest for a little over two weeks. There was never a time when one wasn’t there.
With the window between us, they knew that they were safe and that we meant no harm. As we moved about, they would cock their head to the side, probably just as eager to learn about us as we were to learn about them.
Photo by Andrei/Adobe Stock
Mourning doves are devoted parents and nests are rarely left unattended. Both sexes incubate with the male on the nest from morning until afternoon when the female takes over and stays the rest of the day and through the night. They lay two white eggs which takes between 14 and 15 days to mature. In warmer climates, they can raise up to six broods in one season.
When the young hatch, they are nurtured for 12 to 14 days, after which they are expected to leave the nest. If a fledgling refuses to leave the nest, the parents keep watch nearby but refuse to feed it. When the baby gets hungry enough, it will flutter to the ground in search of food. That is some tough love!
Mourning doves live an average of two years in the wild, providing they survive natural predators like hawks and cats. Most mate for life although, for some unknown reason, a few pair up for just one season. If something happens to one of them, the survivor will search for a new mate and doves return to the same nesting site year after year.
Mourning doves are so named for their mournful-sounding call. They are commonly considered symbols of motherhood because of their unique ability to produce their own milk. Thus, through the ages they have been associated with mother figures such as Mother Mary. The broader symbolism of doves gives us optimism with their association of spirituality. So, beyond their mournful cry is the message of life, hope, renewal and peace. How fitting for this season of rebirth!
We were reminded by the doves how life, even in nature, does not always turn out according to plan. This year, Good Friday was a cold, rainy and gloomy day. In the afternoon, the female started pecking at her eggs in the nest. We watched in bewilderment and thought she was perhaps helping the babies to break free. She continually pecked pieces of the shell and threw them out of the nest.
Sadly, there was a glitch in nature and there were no babies. After the eggs had been pecked open, the couple both flew to the cement porch below the nest and rested for a while, perhaps in mourning of the empty nest. Then they both looked at each other a few times after which they flew off together over the field. What symbolism this was to behold on Good Friday!
We are anxiously awaiting the pair returning to the nest to try for their next brood. Just as is with us, events in nature do not always turn out for the best. For whatever reason, it is part of the rhythm of life.
Perhaps this is why this season, above the rest, is so amazing. Spring holds the promise of life anew for all animals and plants. Whatever else is going on in our lives, the promise of life renewed is something we are all promised each year. Yes, we do see miracles every day.
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