There is a collared dove living in our garden, we call her/him “Bob” and we love him/her with a vengeance.
Really, there is a pair of doves because they were, and are again, a couple, though only one is ever on the nest or feeder in our garden at any one time, and they (of course) could be a different pair to last year. Because this pattern has been going on for years…in fact, as long as I can remember in this house, with the very same nest in use time and time again. So, presented with two of them, which one (if either of them) is Bob?
However we know for sure, this time, that one of the “Bobs” is the same as last summer as he/she has a drooping right wing from when she/he bounced off our window, having being flustered by a wood pigeon at the feeding station, and I rescued him/her with food, water and watchful company, setting up my painting station close-by (which he/she seemed to appreciate), until she/he had recovered enough to leave the flower borders and take off a couple of days later.
He/she lives in a rudimentary nest of twigs in our disused satellite dish on the south-facing wall of our house, right under the eaves, and is often to be found sat in there, leaning against the metal bracket, peering down at us from a bird’s eye view. She/he seems to love to watch us reading, pruning, enjoying breakfast together in the garden below (as we did just the other day, before the cold snap came back…) and is both reticent yet comfortable with us, also curious and, of course, to a degree dependent on food we put out on the ground feeder. Bob has never been far away over winter, although there was no partner in sight during those months.
During the warmer days, they (as a couple) can be found together in easy coupledom, high up in the tree over our driveway, just a short swoop from their satellite nest. Up there, on the sunnier afternoons, they preen and they doze together to the background music of robin or goldfinch and it warms the heart to see them up there, familiar sight as it is from last year and, probably, the year before and the one before that.
Yet all this time, and its been quite some time now, of feeling as though Bob is a part of our family (the name “Bob” came to me when I was tending to him/her under the cover of the dahlias after the window crash…) we have no idea whether Bob him/herself is male or female or, really, any evidence at all that this is the same couple who nested in our dish last summer…or, our favourite theory, is Bob the offspring of that effort (because there was one offspring)…because they all look exactly the same.
So, Bob is “Bob” and other Bob is “Bob”, or sometimes we take a stab and call one of then Bob-ette, but not very often. They are kind-of one and the same entity that we love dearly and consider part of our expanded family unit, such that (after last night’s dusting of snow and this morning’s white frosty coating) I have just been out there to check on him/her in the nest and, with a slight jiggle of my jug full of seed, announced that breakfast is served in the ground feeder. His/her beady eye seemed to acknowledge that, yes, in a few moments, when the sun has warmed the ground a little more, she/he might deign to swoop down (before the woodpidgeons get stuck in…) and so I now feel comfortable to settle down to my own breakfast.
Often, on warmer days, when I am still on my yoga mat, its as though Bob uses the cue of my stirrings just the other side of a foot’s depth of brick wall, to take that first swoop across my window view, down to the lawn and so I get to see him/her enjoying breakfast whilst I stand in tree-pose (assuming there is any food left from the night before)…or, I’ve been known to interrupt my practice to go down in the cold morning to fill the empty feeder because I can’t bear to leave him/her wanting while I am in the zone if its been a cold night. By the same token, I remind myself, often, that I am not responsible for any of the wildlife in my garden and that they are free to come and go; am not about to get so attached that my wellbeing relies on whether they are there today, or not, because that’s an entanglement they don’t want any more than I do (they’re not pets!) so it is all easy come-and-go; we watch, we enjoy, we provide assistance where we can, we are kind…and we love.
It occurs to me, it really doesn’t matter if its Bob or not Bob, if Bob is male or female, whether its the same bird(s) as last year or different (they live about 3 years and often reuse the same nest), or indeed whether it will be different or the same “Bobs” in our garden next year. Its the essence of Bob that I’m in relationship with and it expresses as the gentle curiosity made manifest as collared doves in my garden; I don’t need to get caught up in the political correctness of pronouns to go there.The love I feel in my heart for Bob is deep and real, is pulsing and warm and strong and it is entirely unconditional of all these arbitrary labels and constructs, which feel so entirely done with where real love is concerned. I also know that he/she feels it and, in his/her own way, reciprocates and that this is enough to fill up all of our worlds with an amber-hued kind of glow that colours our days spent together.