Reading the Signs of the Times
It first appeared in our yard the Monday of election week. With so much on the line, I guess I was looking for a sign – and afraid of getting one I didn’t want. So the arrival of a white rock dove – as emblematic of peace as anything I could have conjured – was more than I would have asked for, although it didn’t stay.
The next day, with all the voting polls open, the dove returned, joined by a blue-gray mate. I offered them their own supply of bird seed, poured out on the ground, and a dish of water, warmer than the chilly November air. The white dove soon disappeared, but the blue-gray bird stepped into the warm water and lingered, before nestling into the pile of birdseed as if ready for a nap. Then, while we watched from the window, a cooper’s hawk swooped down, swift as an arrow, and pinned the dove to its death before carrying it off, leaving only a few feathers behind.
It was not the sign I’d wanted after all. As the polls closed that night, a foul uneasiness hoovered in my heart.
The next day, election results still unknown, the white dove whom we had begun to call our peace pigeon, returned. It was surprisingly not shy, but we were terrified, not wanting to witness another slaying.
I did not dare to write this until now, several days after the election has been called and with our peace dove still visiting us daily. Even so, I know, the story isn’t over, is it? As I stepped outside on Sunday to photograph our irenic friend perched on the porch roof, I saw the hawk circling above and quickly shooed the dove away. Its white wings opened like scalloped wishes brushing against the bright blue sky, and it swept deftly over the alley as the hawk flew down, this time too late to make its kill.
I don’t believe in signs that tell us what the future will bring. I do believe in a world that constantly calls us to pay attention and learn from what we witness. And every time I see the peace dove back in our yard again, I am reminded, the story really never ends. Not with an election. Not with any single day’s events, called or undecided. It just keeps asking us, every morning when we rise, what will we do today to keep peace alive?