I am totally and essentially in awe of a pair of pigeons who are living in my garden.
They arrived some weeks ago.
I have a small garden. The lack of grandeur which my garden suffers from because of its size I have tried to make up for in content. We have wooden structures painted purple, beautiful laburnum trees which drip their golden-ness into the spring mornings and provide shade in the summer. We have a silver birch to shine its silver trunk into the winter fog, and we have rowan trees at each entrance to illustrate to those who venture in that it is a garden worthy of the highest protection.
This year, a pair of pigeons appeared in the garden. They flew in one day, quite arrogantly ignoring the rowan trees and proceeded to make love on our purple woodwork – like two Glastonbury revellers inadvertently chipping up at the village open air poetry competition.
They frolicked for days. They would swoop in round about coffee time when I was enjoying my latte on the futon under the taller laburnum. They inelegantly goaded and chased and pecked and flapped, until my little patch of grass was covered in feathers, and the fairy lights were a tangled mess of drooping green wires from my horizontal wooden garden statement. They carried out their passionate and noisy dance during the day and they disappeared to who-knows-where when dusk fell.
Then one day it stopped.
The pair took on an altogether different type of activity. Their ravenously sexual intimacy became a partnership. They flew from a distant place, dramatically landed onto my bedraggled wooden garden statement, balanced a while, before making a ‘c’ shaped airborne manoeuvre into the smaller laburnum: Quite a tricky task. It seemed as though the small tree shivered in nervous anticipation of being made the chosen one, as it shook under the weight of these two before they both flew off again into the distant place from where they came.
I watched them. They were bringing twigs. They were building a nest. They flew in a relay motion, both working quite as hard as each other. Their frantic pursuit of each other had settled into a busy working partnership.
And so it went on. Until one day there was only one bird flying to and fro. The other just sat. And she sat. And she sat.
The whole of my household became a vigil for the sitting. The cats were kept locked in at every opportunity. The dogs were prevented from going within a certain radius of the tree. The lawn went unmown. The hot tub remained unopened. The tree assumed its duty of support and the garden took on a peaceful and reverent quality again, all honouring the grand task that was being carried out by the pigeons.
One day I went into the garden and they weren’t there. No coo-ing. No slight shake of the tree with the small adjustments in the nest. Just one perfect white egg on the floor. Quite clean. Maybe a magpie, or a rodent? I knew in my heart that there had been no baby hatched. I knew that the nest was lifeless. I could feel it. I didn’t need to use my sight nor my hearing. I could feel the abandonment. The tree stood as lifeless as the nest.
And I missed them. I missed their raw, selfish pursuit of each other. I missed their frenzied but companionable working relationship. I missed the total presence of the sitting. I wondered where they were. I wondered whether they were together. I wondered if they felt grief: I did.
Three days ago they appeared again. This time there was no frenzied sexual attack. There was just a few trips with some twigs for house maintenance, and then the sitting. I went into the house and whispered “they’re sitting again…..”
Once again the dogs are banned from the lawn and the cats are being watched. This time I am totally vested in ensuring the safety of those little fledglings whose outrageous, courageous parents have taught me that it’s ok to be a festival-goer at a village fete, a worker when work is required, and a mother when mothering is called for – and that doing what pigeons do when you are one is – well – honourable, normal, natural and nice.