Doves

"In Kenya they call them laughing doves," my father said when I told him that doves were nesting and cooing in the giant spruce tree in front of our new little house and that I hated to call them by their proper, sad name, mourning doves. As it turns out, they aren't really the same bird at all, the laughing and the mourning doves, and the laughing ones coo out a distinctive kind of hilarity, but I understand that my father's larger point was to suggest fundamentally different ways of seeing the world, and I understand that he knew a thing or two about the world, even if he got this one wrong.

The other day a woman I admire told me that she is quite enjoying growing old "because there is so much more to laugh about." Now there is someone who might hear laughter in the cooing of the birds in my tree, the non-laughing brand of dove.

I think I hear in those hollow, repeating hoots, which have collected softly in the chilly dawn outside my bedroom window early into each of the 25 springs we have lived here, just a little sleepy-morning bird-family sound. Getting the fledglings up and about, poking at the seedy scraps saved from dinner, fluffing up the ol' nest fibres. No mourning, or crying, like the doves in poor, pain-wracked Prince's song. Just the waking to and greeting of another day.

My own brood, which I tended in the little house just a few feet away from the spruce (and that is another thing I like about the doves: they don't mind that we are here) makes me laugh helplessly sometimes. We make a fair bit of noise when we phone and visit and dine together and I am so grateful every time I hear them laughing with each other. Good-naturedly, at each other. At me. Makes me grin, soften, with laughter at the back of my throat, makes me want to coo at them as I did to their tiny selves not that long ago, before these nice big people turned up.

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