The babies have dark-dot eyes. One has its fluffy backside to me. The other stares down at my face with steady curiosity, an unblinking interest. Poops are sliding down the pillar. Oh dear. How messy is this going to get?
Stop talking to the babies, Ma says my smiling youngest son as he comes down the stairs. He enjoys telling me to stop what I’m doing even when he enjoys what I’m doing.
I’m standing just inside the open front door, looking at the scrappy nest atop a pillar that greets the portico ceiling. Ma & Pa Dove have chosen a nigh invisible, bone dry, snake-proof location for their fresh chicks. I don’t think there are any snakes around, but it’s the thought that counts. The nest is as inside as being outside can get.
I met Ma Dove a few days ago when she threw herself from her twig house and flew to the boundary wall, vigilant and agitated. I’d opened the door with wild purpose, eager to get on with the purposefulness of my day. Ma Dove had a What the hell! bristle about her. I apologized and explained myself. Thereafter we had an understanding. I opened the door in slow motion, and she stayed put.
At that point, I had no idea there were squeakers in the untidy living quarters.
Two days later Ma Dove is nowhere to be seen. In the nest is a motionless mound, looking for all the world like the tip of a tiny feather duster. I try, without my specs, to figure out what I am seeing. I put my ‘eyes’ on and count – one, two.
Like most parents, Ma & Pa Dove don’t sit down anymore. They’re flying around locating food and delivering snacks.
Life is extraordinary when we look it in the eye. Dove, rat, cat, gecko, dog, bird, fish, frog, snake, it matters not. In their eyes we meet a what are you to me, what am I to you, and what will you do? intrigue and wary curiosity.
What will you do? is the crunch question.
A lion could eat you, a shark take chunks out of you. There are eyes we dare not linger in, eyes that recognize an enticing meal, a teething ring to gnaw, a bit of sport (cat and mouse games).
We watch, unnerved, lions hunt, admiring their skill. We watch sharks snap at seals, appalled that they do, yet excited by their ferocity. We dwell on what we wish something didn’t do, yet, at the same time, love that they do it. Paradox is our nature and in nature.
Until such time as the lion lies down with the lamb, I will cultivate a solid appreciation for the ordinary. An exchange in which there is no hunter, no hunted; where the food chain is forgotten, irrelevant, and a meeting of the eyes creates an infinite loop of timelessness and recognition.
For the rest, I layer my unease with respect, awe, and a live-and-let-live appreciation for how puzzling it all is.
Did you know that young male lions are kicked out of their pride because they must infiltrate another pride and claw, roar, and bite their way to the top? After beating the stuffing out of an established king, a new king will kill every male cub in the pride and impregnate all the females. The new main-mane is making sure his cocky genes now wear the crown. Royals will be royals, it’s what they do.
A dove is unremarkable, pedestrian. Not an exotic bird, not a rare bird, not an intimidating bird. Clothed in shades of to-the-office-grey, isn’t it just one too many of the same thing?
I find peace in the doves’ proximity and gaze, in their chick’s alert, open stare. Bland, even boring, to some, but beautiful to me.
It’s the call of cooing and the call of the wild.
Shh. With a gentle click, I will close the door…