(A Four Photograph Series)
I’m thinking now of a room bathed in morning sunlight and of lace curtains floating on a breeze. The coo of a Mourning Dove reaches my ear. The sound gently nudges me into awareness. The dove is somewhere in a garden, perched boldly on a fence top or peering shyly through a screen of leaves in the pear tree, the oak or perhaps the maple. The thought of a dove nearby cheers me.
Mourning Doves have come to symbolize peace. We associate them with romance, longing, and perhaps sorrow. Their call soothes the soul; their soft colouring and marblelike façade pleases the eye. No wonder they are a common muse for artists and poets.
When the phrase “Mourning Dove hunting season” appeared on my computer screen during a research session, I blinked and read again. Surely I must be mistaken.
Last year, for the first time since 1955, Environment Canada announced a Mourning Dove hunting season in Ontario, from early September to mid November. Licensed hunters in specified rural areas, were permitted to take 15 doves per day with a maximum possession limit of 45 birds.
A startled outcry erupted from bird lovers, animal activist groups and the romantics among us. Officials quickly pointed out that British Columbia has held open season on Mourning Doves since 1960. The practice is common throughout the United States.
The Canadian government defended their decision on two fronts. First, The Mourning Dove has been recognized as a game bird since 1916. Secondly, their numbers were abundant enough to sustain a harvest; experts projected that 1% of the mourning dove population would be affected.
Prior to this week, I didn’t know doves could wind up on a plate. I’d heard of squab, but never realized that it was a discrete term for — pigeon or dove. This is not a meal for me, a thirteen year vegetarian.
Perhaps visions of Mourning Dove domesticity will cleanse my mental palette of the afore mentioned imagery. The Mourning doves’ ability to produce six broods per year, in warm climates, accounts for their abundant numbers across North America. When it’s time to nest, the male collects materials and passes them to the female. She takes charge of building. After the eggs are laid, the nest is never unattended. The male dove sits on the eggs from morning until afternoon, when the female resumes her place on the nest. The pairs lean toward monogamy, reuniting the following year or remaining together through the cold winter months.
There was a time when lovers carved their initials into trees as a testament to their love. We’re all environmentalists now, so that practice has fallen from favour. Romantics are turning to another expression of devotion — lovelocks.
The first time I saw lovelocks clipped to a bridge railing was this past November on a visit to Ottawa. I had set out with great interest in the Corktown Footbridge. This pedestrian bridge spans the Rideau Canal to link Somerset Street East and the University of Ottawa to Somerset Street West in Centretown. Previous to 2006, the canal could only be crossed when the waters froze over in the coldest winter months.
Couples purchase a lock that they can either write or engrave their names on. They connect it to the railing of the bridge, then toss the key into the water as a symbolic act of commitment. To quote one frustrated observer, “If you’re going to add a love lock to the collection, you are supposed to put your names, a date of significance, and throw away the keys. Combination locks DO NOT have keys!”
The lovelock tradition hales from a footbridge in the Serbian town of Vrnjačka Banja. In the early 1900’s, a local schoolmistress named Nada met there with a soldier named Relja. The couple pledged their love for one another, but when World War 1 called him to serve on the Thessaloniki front, Relja’s affections changed. He fell in love with and married a woman from Corfu, Greece where he remained. Nada died, it is said, from a broken heart.
Young couples began visiting the bridge to pledge their devotion to one another by adding a lock to the rail and tossing the key into the river. The practice grew in popularity after publication of “A Prayer for Love”, a poem by Desanka Maksimovic. Lovelocks appeared on bridges in Rome after Federico Moccia’s I Need You described a couple connecting a lock to a lamp post on the Milvian Bridge. The popularity of lovelocks is spreading across North America and Europe. Adding a lovelock to a railing has even become a popular add on to some wedding ceremonies.
Not everyone is keen on the idea
City officials in Ireland, France, and even Canada have removed lovelocks from bridges citing concerns over aesthetics and the risk of damage to the metal railings. Also, the clusters of locks prohibit views of the railings and other architectural details.
In Paris, officials removed padlock laden railings from the Pont des Arts this past summer, for fear that they may separate from the bridge and crush boats passing beneath. Kentucky has taken steps to ban lovelocks from being attached to their bridges.
It is often implied that mature love is what’s left over after the sizzle is gone, like it’s something we settle for after best of love has been doused by the passing of time. I beg to differ. Mature love is something to aspire to.
It is not the weathering away of something forgotten; it is the fortifying of something cherished.
Mature love is not easily attained. But that is what makes it such a treasure. It is part conscious effort and part evolution and part passage of time. It is the older couple who waltzes in effortless synchronicity across a crowded dance floor. It is in the selfless acts freely given and reciprocated. It is in the persevering presence of hand resting upon hand during times of adversity, loss and self-doubt.
This kind of love, like wine, takes time to age. There is the conscious effort of the its makers, the unpredictable factors exacted by environment and climate, and passage of time that allows for maturation.
My glass is raised to the young lovers in the photo, married on September 3, 1957 — nearly fifty seven years ago.
Thoughtful Quotes that Resonate
What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined for life to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent,unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting. – George Eliot– pen name of Mary Evans
I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you. I love you not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me. I love you for the part of me that you bring out. – Elizabeth Barrett Browning
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