Thursday, March 13, 2008

Promises of Spring

One needs to repeat it almost like a mantra sometimes: Death is the door to Rebirth. In Death are hidden the seeds of Life.

In ancient Palestine, the Goddess was affiliated very closely with Doves. Doves are a symbol now of Peace but in those days, they were the symbol of Life and Rebirth. It is a Dove that features in the tale of the Great Flood and it is she who brings back the olive branch in her beak. The Olive has become a symbol of Peace as well, but originally it was a Tree that, like the Fig, bore the meaning of Fertility and Sustenance.

We always had doves in this neighbourhood but in the past, they restricted themselves to the alley and courtyard behind the house. This Spring, they chose to build a nest in the old yew next to the stairway. Yews are not allowed to grow to their full height or power for the most part. They are viewed as bushes and hedges and are cut back ruthlessly. The yews in the garden here never were discouraged from their natural inclination to grow. They now stand as high as a house with three floors. The neighbours sometimes complain of the berries as they are sticky and fall everywhere but I think they are incredibly beautiful. The Yew always was considered to be a tree of Death and Rebirth and often is planted in churchyards for that reason. The berries are toxic in fact.

The doves astound me with their courage. Some may call it stupidity and argue that they have no sense of danger because they haven't the brain capacity to comprehend it. Whatever the truth, they have built their nest very close to the stairs and thus, if all goes well, I shall have a magnificent view of the entire cycle of birth as the female lays her eggs, then nests until they hatch.

Even now, she sits patiently for hours on the nest while the male guards her position.

There are dangers here, not only from humankind and neighbourhood cats but from a magnificent hawk who often can be seen in a maple tree nearby. There are Peregrines in fact, who live in an office building within a two-minute flight and at least one
Red-Tail Hawk who frequents these urban streets. I always have loved hawks of any kind but now I fervently hope the attention of these beautiful predators will be directed elsewhere for a couple of months.

Nature is both sweet and savage... Yet, I do see a message in the choice of the doves to create their nest here. I am not so ego-centric to believe it was done for me but nonetheless can read the augury as one of rebirth and hope. The ancients watched the movements of birds and found their own futures written both in their flight and their entrails. As Easter approaches, I rejoice at the prospect of finding real Easter eggs in the old Yew tree.

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