I’ve started the move into my back yard for the season.

There is a lot to do this year. I need to clean up the leaves I never got to last fall before the first snow. I need to weed, plant, mow. But the back fence fell over in a wind storm and in two weeks we’ll be bonding with our neighbors as we replace it. So for now, I have the perfect excuse to put everything off for a few more weeks and just sit here and write.

This morning I watched a mourning dove build her nest. His nest? I’m not up to date on how to tell the difference in sexes in birds. And until it’s needed in a book, I won’t be looking it up any time soon.

(For the sake of argument, we’ll just use the term ‘It’ when referring to this particular mourning dove.)

The mourning dove continues to fly to the ground and pick through dead pieces of grass and bendable branches. It picks through several with its beak until it finds one it likes and then takes flight back up into the tree.

The tree sits next to my patio and I have quite a close and personal view of this whole process, only I was going to trim this tree. Really chop the sucker, almost in half. But now it looks like nature has taken care of my need to do more yard work. This project will have to keep until the mourning dove family moves out.

I’m reminded of one of the Prairie Home Companion shows from my childhood. (We used to listen to about fifteen or twenty minutes of the show every Sunday night when I was a kid, as we drove home after 5pm mass.)

The show I recall: Garrison Keillor was talking about how spring had come to the fictional town of Lake Wobegone. He had been watching birds in his own back yard, and pondering the frantic way a robin was building a nest. And as a father to be, said robin appeared anxious. Would he get the nest built in time? Would it last if there was a wind storm or rain? Would there be enough cover from predators?


Okay I looked it up.

Apparently the female mourning dove is the one who builds the nest. It seems she will be often interrupted by the male. Which also happened this morning, he came by for a “quick” interruption. She dealt with him and after a lot of flapping of her wings, made him realize she had work to do. He shrugged and flew off so she could get back to work.

Here’s some random trivia we both didn’t know we were going to find out today. There is a very slight difference when trying to figure out the sex of a mourning dove. It would require more time and maybe binoculars. Mourning doves are one of the quickest birds when it comes to building nests, they can accomplish it in a matter of hours. They also have babies about six times a year, all in different nests. Turns out there will be about 2 eggs per brood. The baby will grow quickly and in about fourteen days be ready to learn how to fly. So, I guess I’ll keep an eye on the nature out here. Since I want to trim this tree, it’s good to know that after the little family moves on, they will be going to build another nest elsewhere. And I won’t feel bad for destroying a temporary home.

Note: Do you know how much Italian language I could fit in my head if I didn’t have to move in this bit of information? But we do that, don’t we? Hang on to the little, strange bits and pieces of information. I was recently with a friend and we put on Lisa Lobe’s song “Stay” (because of some strange comment about how I’m learning guitar and I just need a moody coffee shop and low lighting and I could attempt my best Lisa Lobe impersonation…) Anyway, almost 30 years later and said friend and I still know EVERY single word! And yet I struggle to remember the different Italian verbs for rain and cry. Because the one time I learned those two words, it rained most of the time I was in Italy and my kid cried a lot. The two words became entwined.

Oh my friend, I digress.

I wouldn’t say I’m very interested in birds. I don’t want to start a collection of bird art. You know how when you mention to someone that you kinda like something and the next thing you know, your whole life is Moose figurines? Of course, Moose are the one exception because I truly do love moose. But I’m not interested in collecting birds anytime soon. Unless it’s a cute little side note of a knick-knack. Another friend and I seek out gifts that “have a bird on it”. All because we laughed hysterically when we saw this sketch from Portlandia.

As I watch my bird friend in her tree, and as I procrastinate all yard work and writing; I’m thinking about the many different metaphors we use that involve nests.

We call our homes our nests. We nest to feel grounded and one with our surroundings.

We put away nest eggs for our future.

We refer to our children ‘leaving the nest’ and parents of said children as ‘empty nesters’.

There are the negative connotations. Rats nests. Enemies hide in nests.

One thing you don’t want to do is stir up a hornet’s nest.

Plenty of writers and artists have used the metaphor of a nest in their work:

“A lot of times, the inspiration for a novel is a messy bird’s nest of shiny things. Little things that don’t make a whole lot of sense or that, no matter how hard you look, cannot be found directly in the finished book.” –Molly O’Keefe

I’m in a thoughtful mood today, because I took this morning to sit outside and riffle through my old writings. As much as a person can riffle though files on a computer. I was looking for a short story, or some piece of writing to share with you. I found a lot of unfished old ideas. I found some great writing – enough time has passed since I last saw the work that I’m distanced enough to see that it’s pretty good. Of course, there are some really weird messes of words and phrases. And that’s fine. I did find some short stories to rework and broaden, but nothing to really share. It’s a lot of unfinished work, not a complete nest if you will. So I suppose we’ll just have to settle for musings and information about mourning doves as I watch them build their nest.


  • Bob Niccum

    “I found a lot of unfished old ideas” — No idea whether it was an accident or intentional, but it’s a brilliant metaphor.

  • Amy

    If you need a suggestion of what to finish I can help in that department!!! 😂. JC is an animal attractor, they love him. So he has taken to putting up bird feeders in our backyard recently. We have a family of doves that come every morning and stay all day. They lay by the pool sunbathing. I get jealous I want to be like them. It seems they are loving life with no worries.

    • Brenda Sharp

      I love the birds in our backyard. They seem to sing and chatter even louder when dad and i are out there, . I truly believe the injured mourning dove that Noah and I rescued last summer was rehabilitated and returned. The animal hospital promised to release ‘ her him,it’ near our home, bur could not call and inform us for sure. But i did see a dove sitting quiet on the patio table 2 months later, not spooked at all when i opened the door. ” Is it you? welcome home”, I said.

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