LAST SUMMER the men came and painted my house. In the process, they left a window in a spare upstairs bedroom open about four inches. When fall came, I made a mental note to close that window, but knowing that it had been painted tight in the position it was in and that I would have to haul a ladder around and worry it a good deal in order to free it, I postponed the chore. Later, I came to the rather easy decision that a little ventilation was probably good for that seldom used room, and the window remained open.
Now I am the victim of my dereliction. A mourning dove has built a nest on a box in the room, near the window, about two feet off the floor. She is placidly brooding a couple of small white eggs. She fixes me with a beady and unblinking eye when I go into the room, but she doesn't move.
I know that to expect anything from her in the way of hygienic respect for my bedroom is out of the question and that eventually I will be faced with a job considerably more unpleasant than the one I neglected over the past months.
What to do? Close the window when she is away? I dare not. Remove the nest and the eggs? I will not. Reason with her? I cannot. I have been chosen, it seems, to provide her and her progeny with accommodation for as long as she sees fit to stay. Apparently, it is not for me to question why she has selected my spare bedroom in which to consummate the process to which her minuscule brain has driven her.
I might feel better if my dove showed some gratitude for what I am, admittedly grudgingly, allowing her to do. As a matter of fact, I fed her and uncounted other miscellaneous types throughout the winter from a feeder just below the bedroom window. Not one of them ever showed the slightest reaction to my largess except to fly in fear whenever I approached; otherwise, they happily gorged themselves at my expense.
If the dove in my bedroom gave just the smallest hint that she understood my predicament I would be satisfied. I want her to know that I mean no harm, that I feel a kinship to her in her project, that I feel a kind of responsibility for her welfare. But, no. She merely gazes at me, passively, innocently, tenaciously. She is tolerating me, not the other way around.
How dare she intrude on me, all unbidden! But then I reflect. By chance she has slipped her tiny intrusive presence into my life. She has asked nothing of me, but there is something far greater than she or I that is asking something of me. My part in the great natural order of things at this moment is simply to provide her room. I am content to do so. It is an enriching and yet somehow humbling experience. And so now I am glad after all that the painters left the window open.
Donald Elliott writes from Baltimore.