Sunday, June 7, 2009


Three years ago, a mourning dove couple took up residence in the blue spruce that dominates my front yard. The two built a nest, raised youngs whose chirps I could hear in the small hours of the mornings, and when it was time for rest and relaxation, they perched side by side on a power line near the tree and conversed about whatever subjects are of interest to mourning doves.

I didn't pay much attention. I'm not a birdwatcher. I am more concerned with the damage of deer chewing on my azaleas than by a duo of avian partners.

Mourning doves are interesting, though: they're monogamous, generally have a couple of nestlings each years. They range throughout North America, can fly at speeds up to 50 miles per hour, and, unfortunately, are one of the most widely hunted species for sport and for food.

The following year, only one dove showed up. It spent almost the entire season on the telephone wire, occasionally flying off but soon returning. I had the impression that he/she was waiting for its mate with infinite patience. I took to putting barley seeds on the front lawn and the dove alit there and fed itself. Come fall, the bird vanished.

It was back, alone again, earlier this spring. It didn't build a nest, ignored the proffered seeds, balanced for hours on end on the power line.

I started to wonder what sort of feelings mourning doves have. Their name comes from the doleful cooing sounds they make
( it would be easy to assume sound and mood are linked, but I'm pretty sure they're not.
Still, when anything--bird, human, rhinoceros--loses its mate, there's a period of deep sadness, and some species never quite recuperate. They keep hanging around waiting for a change, a restoration of the status quo. Did my bird's companion get hit by a car? Fall prey to a cat or a kid with a BB gun? Will the survivor find another? Do birds have affairs of the heart? Walking through the neighborhood recently, I saw there were several dove twosomes and thought perhaps my bird might try to horn in on another couple's bliss. Could he/she be successful? Do doves separate? Divorce? Have long discussions on the merits of staying together for the kids? Are there arguments on who gets to keep the nest?

More than likely, my bird will succumb to the vagaries of nature---the life span of an unmolested dove is fairly brief--and another couple will establish residency in the blue spruce. The cycle will begin again, as it must and should because that is the way things are. All relationships, we know, end in tragedy.

Being a Buddhist by choice and philosophy, I also wonder if the single dove perhaps committed some great sin in an earlier reincarnation and was paying for it now. After all, Buddha left some 84,000 teachings. Maybe a few of them were for the birds.

Here's installment 94 of Wasted Miracles.

He wrote the options down on paper, feeling foolish, finding no other way to focus his thoughts.

He could just let everything go; Orin would suggest that. Whatever drugs were involved were an infinitesimal amount compared to the tons smuggled in daily, broken into kilos, ounces, grams, stepped on, stepped on again. Another two, three, ten pounds... meaningless.

He could call the police, tell them everything. “And be a martyr,” he said out loud.

He could go to New York and find the two women.

And then what? And then somehow destroy the drugs. That would end it, that would make Josie’s ordeal at least serve a purpose. It might even make Joe’s ghost go away.


There was a subtle satisfaction to knowing that the late Herbie had somehow managed to swindle the Zulu. Mamadou, who did not particularly believe in an afterlife, nevertheless hoped that somewhere the Zulu’s soul was raging at the theft. Not that it really mattered. They were all dead now, Amelie’s assassins. The Zulu had been the last of them. There only remained one final act to put the universe back into a semblance of order, and that was to wrest the drugs back. By doing that, the shame and horror surrounding Amelie’s last days might at last be put to rest.


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