This year for Christmas I was given a book called, “Birding without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest and the Biggest Year in the World.” Intrigued, I immediately flipped it open to read the first sentence. “On New Year’s Day, superstitious birdwatchers like to say, the very first bird you see is an omen for the future.”
As someone who tries to say “Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit” each month and wishes on stars and pie corners and loves birds, I loved this idea. However, I was slightly wary. The future has been unrolling some mighty unpleasant things these days. I’ve also never dared go to a fortune teller or palm reader. The idea of doing so sends shivers down my spine. I’m not sure exactly what I think will happen, but I’m pretty convinced I’ll walk in, they’ll look into the ball, or into my hand, and either scream, faint, or back away in terror. So, did I really want a sneak peek? Even through a bird intermediary?
New Year’s Day 2022 dawned.
I had an odd start to the day–first I woke at 1:30 am (at which time I whispered “Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit” and nudged my husband to tell him to do the same, since you can never have too much luck), then I fell back asleep only to wake up fully at 3 am. I got up, putzed around til about 5:30, fell asleep on the couch for another hour, then woke again. Later, I was settled in, writing, when I suddenly realized I hadn’t noticed the daylight steadily increasing outside. No doubt the birds were already in full swing at the feeders. I couldn’t really avoid seeing birds all day long, so I guess my decision was made. I was going to look.
What kind of bird would I see when I looked? What kind of year would I have?
Our typical feathered visitors are chickadees, goldfinch, tufted titmice, nuthatches, blue jays, cardinals and a variety of woodpeckers. Most of those seemed like they’d have a positive interpretation, so I felt like the odds must be in my favor.
Deliberately, I raised my eyes from my notebook. The first thing I noticed were three mourning doves perched in the birch tree. Not one. Not two. But three of them. (I guess that was in case I didn’t notice the first one. Or the second one.) So, we do have mourning doves around sometimes, but they definitely aren’t daily visitors. The symbolism felt obvious even without a google search and even though I knew this wasn’t a real omen, more of a fun game, I felt my spirits sink. 2021 had plenty of mourning in it and the thought of a year marked by more of it was discouraging, to say the least.
I half-heartedly googled “mourning dove symbolism” and found that a mourning dove is “a symbol of sorrow and mourning”. No surprise there. Then I read further: “The mourning dove is, above all other symbolism, a spiritual messenger of peace, love, and faith.” Peace. Love. Faith. A year marked with those would surely be a positive one, right?