The first bird caught my breath, because it swooped into view the moment I stepped into the kitchen, in the groggy, half-desperate way one does when she is at last awake and only just yet.
My foot touched linoleum and there was a brief shuffle of wings outside the window. I jumped. A soft brown dove landed on the fire escape, carrying a twig in its beak. We were both surprised.
I froze in a gesture of friendship.
The dove froze, head atilt, in a gesture of wariness, as a subway passenger might freeze in the company of a loud and unkempt man. If she does not move, then perhaps she is invisible. She waits until she has determined he does not mean her harm. He is just crazy.
I am just a woman watching a bird from a window.
Cautiously, the dove waddled to the corner of the fire escape and tucked behind a large clay pot that has sat barren since winter, save for the squirrels who dig into the soil because they think it is good for hiding. Out of sight but for the flick of a few tail feathers, the dove began to weave its twig into a small nest. I had not noticed it before.
The next day, I forgot about the dove when I opened the window in one great push. There was another flurry of feathers as the bird, frightened, flew away; I hoped not for good. That’s when I noticed a second set of tail feathers nestled in the corner.
There were two of them. A pair of lovebirds, if you will. Building an honest-to-god love nest. Right outside my window.
I am not the only one trying to shake the sleep of winter. Not the only one working to build something, gathering stray bits and rearranging them to make a home more pleasing, or more supportive of my needs. I am not the only one propelled by instinct, even when I do not recognize it as such.
Now each morning when I stumble to the kitchen, before I make my coffee, I go to the window and look for them. I am careful to open the window gently. I listen without even knowing what I'm listening for.