Yesterday I sat outside my house on the side patio. After a while I noticed that two mourning doves had landed in the corner of my yard on the wall surrounding my small decorative pond and fountain. They arrived as if from nature’s chef, an amuse-bouche, free, surprising, desirable. The tiny pond is a cool oasis full of water lilies, duck weed and water Hawthorne and around the edges grow nasturtiums and coreopsis and alyssum. It’s a lovely cool spot covered with a trellis full of passion vines.

One of the doves wandered over to the rocks around the pond to drink and began to splash around. Then leaving the pond, it walked along the bricks at the top of the stucco wall in front of it and sat down beside its mate in the shade of an orange blooming cape honeysuckle. It was a warm day here in San Diego, high 70’s, but there in the shade the doves sat side-by-side and settled into a mid-day repose, a luxuriating sloth, a robust calm, ataraxia, robust tranquility. Their legs disappeared. They sank into the cool bricks and widened. They so settled that when I moved my chair out of the sun, only 25 feet away, they didn’t move a feather to fly.

During the coronavirus pandemic, as we social isolate, for many of us there’s less to do than we are used to. In such a limiting milieu as this, I find myself flitting between uncomfortable feelings. What is it? Boredom? Lethargy? Anxiety? Malnoia, that vague feeling of mental discomfort. Unlike the doves, I don’t settle well in the shade.

Caralyn Collar, a blogger I follow at beautybeyondbones puts it well in saying, “we’re grappling with … restlessness.”

Yup! Nailed it! Caralyn is restless. I’m restless. The world is restless. Our children are restless. My cat is restless. Early the other morning while it was still dark, I stepped out to look at the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter through my telescope. Unbeknownst to me the cat came out with me, at 5 AM! When I went back in, she was locked out.. When we got up we were like, “Where is the cat?” We found her huddled under a bush in the side yard. She was glad to come back in. She was lucky one of the local coyotes that roam our master-planned community didn’t eat her.

We all want to escape, run out the door, get out again. We want to get out to malls, coffee shops, stores, restaurants, breweries, the gym, parks, the beach, church, friend’s homes, work, parties, hangouts — and get food — anything but grocery store food — and hugs.

The restless don’t rest that well. I confess I’m addicted to movement. We all are. We are addicted to motion, ambulation, talking, meeting, driving, projects, errands, shopping! We’ve had a lifetime of consumerism. Sure we can still buy online but buying things on Amazon is getting old! I want to touch stuff! I want to hobnob with the checker.

What to do?

Sitting the other day watching the two doves in the shade under the honeysuckle on the cool bricks, I found myself admiring their equanimity, their composure, their even disposition, their ability to just be there, to rest.

The dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit of God. I think we like the Holy Spirit just like we like our consumer culture. We like the Holy Spirit to be in motion, to come to us frenetic, with brio, with verve, with spunk, with clangorous tongues of fire, agentic, shedding gifts, flying lead bird to the next wonder-venture. And while all that is fine and good, my resting doves, by the pond, reminded me that the Holy Spirit is also a Spirit of comfort and of rest, and that our God is a spirit of rest, and invites us to enter his rest.

The doves came and sat with me. Sometimes God comes that way, just to sit with us, in silence, to sit with us in our uncomfortable feelings, to sit with us in our anxiety and to sit with us in our restlessness. He knows we are restless, and he knows the true rest is found in him, in sitting with him, in silence. Seeing that he isn’t all on edge to jump up and fly and fidget and fume and fix, seeing that he knows how to sink his legs and feathers into the everyday-shady-brick-mundane gives us permission to be content, at times, with doing nothing. God our quiet feathered flâneur.

I think I could take lessons from my neighborhood doves! To rest some of the day away with no shame attached — that’s progress. That’s progress in moving away from addictive motion and persistent restlessness. They’ll be time again for all that; perhaps this is the time to get better at resting.

This evening as I take my walk I hear a dove cooing gently, roosted, retired, settled for the night, signaling its intrinsic restful contentment.

  1. Beth Eldridge says:

    Restlessness? That must be it! Thank you 🙂

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