Valentines on the Ledge

By Erika Hoffman

The dawn of Valentine’s Day, I awoke alone in our king- sized bed. I was awakened before the alarm went off by a plaintive cry from beyond the wall. I stumbled over pillows tossed casually on the floor in front of our balcony door. I pulled the curtain aside but saw nothing. I still heard the mournful cries that sounded rather frantic and pleading. In my not-totally-awake stupor, I reasoned that it couldn’t be a bird. Yet, I was on the second floor, and the lament sounded too close to be coming from the ground. Squirrels in our attic? Do they weep like this? I walked to the other window in our bedroom which is blocked by an enormous armchair once belonging to my husband’s grandfather. Now that chair is filled with sundry papers, magazines, books and clothes of my husband’s. I pushed the drapes aside. There, on the window sill perched a bird with a tiny head, shivering. As it trembled in the frigid air from an untimely, unusual arctic blast, it emitted the saddest noise imaginable. I’ve never had my face so near a bird before. Only the pane of glass separated us. I wondered how to comfort it. I knew I had bird feeders below outside the living room so this despair didn’t emanate from hunger. It was either from the cold or fear.

As I pitied it all alone there shivering on my window sill, another bird alit next to it. This one also had a drab gray color and a wee bit of a head in comparison to its body. They looked like twins. But this one’s full plumage didn’t shudder, and this one didn’t moan. It began to peck at the vociferous bird’s tiny head. Every time the first one let loose a sad shriek, the second one gave it a quick peck upside the head. I considered tapping on the window to stop this bullying. But then I began to notice that the crier ceased her moaning when the other pecked at her head, and after a while the shivering subsided, and they both sat in silence next to each other on the ledge. I looked away for a second, and they flew off.

As the day wore on, I wondered if the two were sweethearts and which one was the male. I decided the pecks at the head might have been a caring gesture in the ornithological world. I mused as to whether this jabbing was their type of communication. Perhaps one dove was saying: “Stop crying now, honey. It is cold, but you’ll be all right.”

My husband was gone to a meeting for two days, and so I was alone in our big house except for the dogs—my son’s dogs which I keep for the winter because it gets so cold in New York, and usually winter’s mild here in Carolina.

For some reason, I didn’t feel lonely that cold Valentine’s morn waking up alone. I think the birds’ togetherness, attention and comfort for each other was a sign to me. “Cheer up. The day will be fine, and you are not alone” was their message.

When my husband returned that night, I told him about these creatures on the ledge and how it was the first time in my life I’d ever been so near to birds and witnessed their interaction in their time of stress. He listened. I told him I’d not prepared anything for Valentines’ Day and had not even gotten him a card. He asked, “What do you want to do tonight? We can eat out, get take out or cook something.” I told him it didn’t matter what we did. And I meant it. I am just happy not to be alone on Valentine’s Day’s night; so I sent him for a pizza and gave the doggies a bath while he was gone. And when he returned we opened a bottle of good merlot, and all four of us dined on pizza.

To tell the truth, this was as much fun a Valentine’s Day in its own peculiar way as those extroverted, extravagant ones of yesteryear when we were young and thought we had to wine and dine and gift each other with presents, flowers, candy and cards. Sometimes, the gift of another’s company, true concern and a listening ear is really the only thing a person craves. Birds, like all living creatures, teach us lessons if we pay attention to their conversation, their interactions, their innate wisdom.

About this writer

  • Erika Hoffman Erika Hoffman views most travel experiences as educational experiences and sometimes the lessons learned are revelations about oneself.

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9 Responses to “Valentines on the Ledge”

  1. I can relate to this celebration of Valentine’s Day. A mature appreciation for the togetherness of a long marriage is worth more than chocolate or roses.

  2. Barbara Margolis says:

    Observing the wonders of nature reminds us that the simple pleasures in life are the most cherished, a sentiment to be remembered on Valentine’s Day…

  3. What a sweet, lovely story Erika Hoffman has written again, this time about pairs of birds, pairs of dogs, and pairs of people for Valentines Day. I always look forward to reading about her experiences.

  4. Carol Trejo says:

    Thank you to the writer, Erika Hoffman, for being able to express in writing such a beautiful “love story” A reminder to me to enjoy the people I am surrounded by and appreciate the “pecking at my head”! I always enjoy reading her stories.

  5. Erika Hoffman says:

    Thanks for the comments! Sometimes, a little something will happen, like two crying birds on a sill, that will get me thinking and then before I know it, the little something leads me to philosophy! LOL! Strange how the mind works!

  6. Krisan Murphy says:

    This story poignantly captures the message that often evades Valentine’s Day – the love of togetherness, shelter, and comfort. Thanks for this reminder you found face-to-face with the birds in your window.

  7. Rose Ann says:

    A reminder that the greatest gift is togetherness (but I’d never turn down a box of chocolates:) Enjoyed your story!

  8. Susie Park says:

    I can see the birds on the ledge.
    A true Valentine evening.
    Much to learn from nature.
    Loved the story

  9. Nice story, Erika. I could hear your voice clearly and see you eyeballing the birds, concerned about their welfare. The ending was sweet, tying the sentiment together.

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