Mourning Dove by Meera Subramanian
In homage to Barry Lopez and Amanda Stronza. And the flying creatures.
The familiar thud on the kitchen glass, but louder, heavier. When I look up, I still see small gray feathers suspended in the air. The stickers that help birds see the glass we like to look through, which I found through the American Bird Conservatory, have helped. The thuds have diminished this season, even as we’re in the thick of migration. I suspect that one of the raptors I’m so enamored of was in pursuit of this dove, frantic, flying fast, until the air became glass and she was downed. Other strikes this year were just stuns. Five minutes later, and the feathers lifted the life back into the sky, airborne again. Not this time.
In the summer of 2021, I had great plans to attend the The Art of Mending show at the Brick House Museum in Kennebunk, Maine. Covid thwarted the plans again and again. I watched the video of exhibition, glad for it, at least. The show was curated by Scott and Nancy Nash of the Illustration Institute / @illustration_institute. They’re friends. (Scott designed the gorgeous logo of RESP for us.) They’re the kind of friends you see once or twice a year and hours pass in an instant, so enlivened and wide-ranging is the conversation. They told us about the show when it was still in the planning stages. In these times when it can feel like too much is broken or breaking, they sought out those who were focused on repair.
One of the people they found was Dr. Amanda Stronza / @amandastronza, an anthropologist, conservationist and photographer in Austin, Texas whom they’d come across on Instagram when she started honoring the dead animals she discovered in her meanderings. She created memorials with the flowers, cones, seeds, leaves and whatever natural bits she found around the lifeless body. I took it today as inspiration. It seemed the right thing to do, when I lifted the dove from below the window and carried her to the edge of the yard.
Amanda, in turn, was inspired by Barry Lopez, who wrote about his tendency to stop when he sees roadkill and remove the body. “I carry each one away from the tarmac into a cover of grass or brush out of decency,” he writes in his short book Apologia. “Who are these animals, their lights gone out? What journeys have fallen apart here?”
A journey fell apart here today. More than one. It’s likely there’s a mate nearby, a mourning dove in mourning, their broods fledged but their bond still strong. The hawks won’t come back for their quarry, but perhaps she’ll be sustenance for someone else, a scavenger furry or six-legged, the cycle continuing.