Friday, May 30, 2008

the Mourning Dove fiasco

Ah, spring the time of baby animals, precious flowers, whimsical small leaves and new beginnings.

At first, I was slightly upset several weeks ago when I discovered that a mourning dove had made her nest on my window sill. I had wanted to put a screen in that window, next to my desk and on the side of the house. But, I discovered that she had already claimed it as her own. I had left the storm window up the day I had moved in, allowing enough space for a small nest with two little white eggs in it.

As the past few weeks have gone by, I have come to enjoy having her there more and more. It's almost like an interactive form of the Discovery Channel. I have watched the mourning dove feed her two young ones and have heard her coo to them. Recently, I began to worry that as the babies grew bigger they may fall out of the window.

Yesterday, my fear was partially realized.

I was eating breakfast when I heard a loud commotion at the window. I ran over and peeked out. I only saw the mother's feet as she seemed to fall out the window. My first thought was the baby had fallen down and she was trying to catch it. I grabbed a kitchen towel and my keys then dashed outside to search through the overgrown brush for the baby and mom. As I searched, I looked around to see crows hollering in the trees. At that point, I realized the doves were a victim of a crow. After not finding the doves, I banged on a metal garbage can, scaring the fiesty crows away.

Back inside my apartment, I realized that both mourning dove babies were safe in the nest, but there was no sign of mom or dad. I waited and hoped. I thought that they would return within an hour. After that amount of time went by without any sign of them, I began to worry so I called the Wildlife in Need Center, where a volunteer told me to give the parents more time. She said once the babies start crying, if the parents don't return at that point, I should consider bringing them in.

Although I didn't want the babies to die, I was torn about what to do. I knew that this was all a part of nature and wondered if I should simply let nature take its course. Or should I intervene if need be and help the babies live. I don't think I would have even considered leaving them alone if the baby birds had been squirrels or raccoons. After thinking about it, I knew that I should simply let nature take its course.

I am happy to report, however, that the parents did return. The dad came first to feed the babies before leaving them alone. I was still worried that perhaps the mom was injured and would not be back to sit on them and keep them warm during the thunderstorm that was predicted for last night. But, just as I was leaving for work, I heard a loud cooing and there she was! I was ecstatic.

I love nature and I get a lot of enjoyment from watching animals of all kinds function, but I also get my share of heartbreak from it as well. Having lived for several years in a house with my parents that borders countryside, I have come face to face with nature. Seeing deer, chipmunks, fox, turtles, ducks, turkeys, etc. go about their lives in my backyard and by the pond across the street has enriched my life, but I have seen so many sad stories too. I have learned a lesson about how all of us, but especially nature, is always living on the edge. It's a good lesson to learn. It certainly makes me appreciate my life and that of animals even more. It also teaches me that sometimes no matter how hard a person tries to accomplish a certain goal, that we often don't have enough control over the circumstances to do that and must accept the situation for what it is.


"If you are not living on the edge, you take up too much room."
--Native American saying

"Be like the bird, pausing in his flight
On limb too slight,
Feels it give way, yet sings
Knowing he has wings."
--Victor Hugo

Monday, May 5, 2008

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Over the past several months, I have enjoyed reading books that are about food: food that I eat and food that people in other countries eat. Food and nutrition are vital things in our lives and yet we take them so much for granted. I want to be more aware of not only how the food is made that I eat, but where it comes from and what does to me.

Previously, I wrote about a book called the Hungry Planet that was a book of photo essays and written essays about what people around the world consume for nutrition. That book changed how I approached grocery shopping and also made me much more appreciative for the amount of food available to me.

Now, I am reading a book called "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. Kingsolver and her husband and two daughters move from Arizona, where the food and water are shipped in, to a farm on the Appalachian Mountains so the family can raise most of its own food.

I just began this book, but I have already begun to learn so much about the state of the American diet and how modified all our foods are. It's amazing how the food we consider to be healthy like vegetables have been manipulated to resist diseases and to look good. In the process, the once-healthy foods have lost a lot of what was good for us.

The book also focuses on the amount of oil and work it takes to get foods to consumers. Living in Wisconsin, I appreciate having access to cucumbers and pears in the middle of the winter, but it's clear that it took a lot of resources to get that food to me. Is this what we should be doing?

As I read more, I will write more. I am just starting to sort out a lot of the ideas that Kingsolver introduces in her book.

I am already planning to grow some tomato and pepper plants on my apartment building roof this summer and to shop as much as possible at farmers' markets over the summer. I am so excited that the Waukesha farmer's market starts Saturday. I know that I won't be able to buy much yet, but I am hoping for some fresh flowers.