Today marks the first day of the New Year 2020. It is almost painful to think how the past 365 days simply evaporated from our sight. I must relate to you an accomplishment of mine for 2019…a year ago today I began in earnest to keep a daily journal. Handwritten, in black ink, in some of the best cursive script I could manage, I made it through the entire year without missing even a day! I mark this as a major break-thru for me as I probably have started journals or diaries on New Year’s Day 40 times over the years. I possess a full shoebox of those little red bound diaries that we used to get at Jennie Mae Dickerson’s Ten Cent Store or Ben Franklin’s Five and Dime, both famous shopping venues on Ripley’s town square of long ago. You know the ones…they had a clasp on them which had a lock and a tee-tiny key so you could hopefully keep your private thoughts hidden from all prying eyes. Most years it seemed I made it until at least spring holidays. A few times I made entries until school turned out for summer and then all bets were off. But this year, despite the knowledge that most New Year’s resolutions come ‘in one year and out the other,’ I successfully completed 365 daily entries.
As a physician, I have always kept with me and consistently abridged a little black book of secret medical notes and treatment recipes that I treasured and which were to be found nowhere else. As an amateur writer, I have also always managed to keep a running ‘jot-em-down’ book of thoughts, ideas, and funny things that people say to me, things I don’t ever want to lose, and things I want to research and possibly write about further at some future date. I have told many of my medical students over the years that if you do this faithfully in practice for at least five years and you look back at your scribbling, if you can’t find enough stuff to write a book about…then, well, you simply have not been paying attention.
I must have inherited a love of birds from my father. He kept and raised an avian menagerie of all types of feathered friends as long as I can remember. Chickens and pigeons, both common and exotic, peafowl, turkeys, guineas, quail, pheasants, ducks, geese, and even a few swans graced our farmstead. Our place was always a veritable zoo and Daddy loved nothing better than feeding and listening to his birds chatter, crow, and honk every morning before he went to work.
Every day this summer, I had the joy of the constant company of a pair of sweet ‘mourning doves’ who made their nesting home in a huge pin oak tree in our back yard. These pale gray beauties would softly flutter down and share eating the corn I scattered to my ravenous duck hoard each morning. In the afternoons, while sitting on the back porch with Roger and the cats and pups after work, my heart would thrill to their shared conversations, the gentle and almost mournful cooing call.
This fall, with the advent of dove hunting season I began to miss this faithful pair of doves each day. I feared the worst of course. Dove hunting has always struck me as a terrible thing for folks to do because these birds bond for life and sometimes die grieving for their lost mates. If it is “a sin to kill a mockingbird” as the old maxim says, then how much more incriminating is dove season? Hearing the echoes of dozens of shotgun blasts on the warm late evening of opening day gave me pause to wonder if ‘my doves’ had indeed been lost. Around and since Thanksgiving only one dove had daily appeared for morning corn…the veritable “Lonesome Dove.”
Doves carry such symbolic meaning to us. Their calming but somewhat haunting and sad refrain carries with it a message of a renewed and hopeful life of peace. It has graced our sacred scriptures in several ways throughout the ages. In the Bible, the dove has symbolized the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, in the baptism of Jesus when “a dove from Heaven descended upon Him.”
Earlier, in the story of Noah’s Ark, God sent a flood to wipe out the earth except for Noah, his family, and the animals he saved. After forty days and nights, Noah sent out a raven to look for dry land. When the raven came back without success, Noah then sent out a dove. The little dove came back to the ark with an olive leaf which told Noah that there were trees growing on dry land nearby! In this scripture, a dove symbolized the hope of new beginnings and the salvation of deliverance. Thus, the beautiful little dove, while nothing more than a member of the prolific pigeon family, has been an iconic symbol of peace and safety for us throughout history.
Today, this New Year’s morning I slept in, then got up and lingered over coffee, started a new journal, and pondered on what to write about for the newspaper this month.
Finally, when at last goaded by the incessant mewing and guilt inducing looks of my dogs and cats at the back door, I gave in and went out to do the morning’s ritual of feeding the stock. In amazement, when I got to the last group of critters, my waddling fat Muscovy ducks clad in their black and white tuxes, there appeared not one but four cooing mourning doves looking for breakfast! My heart sang with gratitude for their meekness, their patience, and the return of their humble presence with new life in tow.
When I saw them, I sang the ‘dove doxology’ out loud on this cold clear morning…a message for the hope of world and personal peace and renewal in the coming year of 2020.
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Praise Him ALL CREATURES here below!
Praise Him above, ye Heavenly Host;
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost! Amen.”