A dove perches on a bird feeder placed on a condo balcony. (Los Angeles Times )
I'm a city boy. I live in Culver City, went to school in Iowa City and grew up in New York City. And the truth is, I've always felt more comfortable on sidewalks than on grass. I think there's nothing quite like the smell of the subway in the morning, and I'll take a good building over a tree any day.
Because Brooklyn, where I grew up, wasn't quite urban enough, I moved to Manhattan as soon as I could. In those days, it was truly a place of steel and granite canyons, with precious little green space except for Central Park. The series of hovels I lived in were about as far removed from nature as it was possible to get, and the residents were determined to keep it that way. Every now and then you would see some crazy guy feeding the pigeons, and people would yell at him: "Stop feeding the pigeons. Don't you know they spread disease?"
But nature has a way of catching up to a person, just as age does, and regret.
We (my kid, my wife and my dog) live in a small condominium with a small patio in front that is separated from the rest of the house by a glass door. And though we didn't search out nature, it seemed to find us. We see the usual squirrels, the occasional rat, big bugs that come out of Ballona Creek and dare you to step on them, ducks that stop by once or twice a year on their way to who knows where, crows, and also mourning doves.
A few months ago, a pair of mourning doves, cooing like mad and making whistling sounds with their wings, decided that our little patio was a perfect place to build a nest. Never mind that the door to the patio sounds like a gunshot going off when it opens. Never mind that my kid leaves his bike out there and has to get it before riding to school or wherever else he wants to go. Never mind all that. The doves decided that they really liked that moldy cardboard box with the rusty garden shears on top, and so they built their nest not two feet from our patio glass door. It was prime real estate.
Or so they thought.
They'd hardly had time to build a nest and settle in when the crows got wind of their presence and started coming around. The doves made the best of having bad neighbors and seemed prepared to stick it out. The female even laid eggs.
But then one morning Riley, my dog, barked. I looked up and saw a big crow carrying off the eggs. I figured that was the end of the story.
To my surprise, a few weeks ago, the doves came back, and this time, dammit, back to stay. The birds sat on the nest, and we looked at them through the window. They took us in, too, sometimes eyeing us suspiciously, sometimes turning their backs on us disdainfully. We became quite fond of them and eager to meet their chicks. Nature had reared its head, and there was something I liked about the whole mysterious business; something atavistic, something warm and miraculous and stubborn.
Yesterday, we noticed that we have two chicks, and the birds take turns feeding them.
Have a cigar!
Allen Levy is an assistant professor of communication studies at Chapman University in Orange. He previously held public relations posts in the recording industry.