A few months prior to the wedding, when Joseph and I were in the thick of wedding planning and classes, there were a myriad of preposterous ideas tossed around.
If there is one thing I've never been able to stand, it's being usual. Predictable. Boring. Sometimes my judgement can become a bit clouded when exciting possibilities enter my mind that buck the monotonous rhythm of normalcy.
Such silly business as our vows being written Dr. Seuss style, the attendance of various barnyard animals, and providing people with picnic blankets instead of chairs to sit on were (thankfully) flatly refused and kindly refuted by those closest to me.
One thing nobody managed to talk me out of, however, was my plan to replace a unity candle with doves. I wanted doves at our wedding, but due to the hawk that lived not far from the Hanwell's backyard, I didn't think the standard release-them-into-the-wild-blue-yonder route was the best to go. My plan was to have them in separate cages during the ceremony and then somehow magically morph them into one cage for the reception. It was brilliant. The symbology of unity would be there, but it would be in the background instead of blazingly stated with candles and fire and it's own moment that could very easily turn awkward if we took too long trying to get wicks to catch with our trembly stage-fright hands.
Our pet store searches only produced a number of little brown doves. Not a single white dove was there to be found. I don't know why I was so adamant about obtaining white doves. I was on wedding planning crazy pills, I think.
What happened in the end was that we found a guy who lived in a minuscule dot of a town, way way way back in the mountains, whose hobby was collecting and raising rare and exotic pigeons and doves. Who would have guessed that such a thing could be a real passion for someone?
This guy was delighted with his birds. He had crafted multiple nesting sheds for them with his hands, and longed for nothing more than to fill our ears with everything he knew about what they ate, how they behaved, how many breeds there were, what they all were, and bird-related stories of his own.
When he found out he was talking to Christians, his eyes lit up even more. He told us of a pigeon that had been his son's absolute favorite. The kid took this bird everywhere with him. He even snuggled it as he watched movies.
The pigeons could fly free during the day, and they always returned back to their pen at night. One day, his son's favorite pigeon flew into the sky only to be snapped up immediately by a hawk. Panicking, the father had run at the predator, waving his arms and throwing things. When the hawk dropped the pigeon, the father saw that it was too late. The pigeon's neck was severed down to the bone. He thought there was no way the bird would live.
He carried it inside to show his wife. Neither of them could bare to tell their son, so they tucked the pigeon into a warm little crate, prayed over it, and left it be for the night.
When they woke in the morning, the father almost couldn't bring himself to go look and see how the bird was doing. He couldn't have been more shocked when he peeked in, and saw that the pigeon was alive and well and healing.
"He was good as new in just a few days!", He proclaimed. He then went into the coop and brought that pigeon out to show us it's scar.
Before he got to our doves, he showed us a pen after pen of pigeons that looked like elaborate works of art. At one pen, he stopped.
"These little guys don't look like much, I know" he noted, "but they are some of my favorites. They are called the rollers and the tumblers. People bred these pigeons for centuries to stick close to their owners. Eventually the flight was bred out of them. See?"
He picked up a roller and gave it a gentle toss. The second it hit the ground, it began doing somersaults. Literally. This bird moved along the ground doing speedy little somersaults by tucking it's head under it's body and propelling itself into a forward roll with a flurry of winged flutters.
When he saw that we were adequately astonished by this, he took a tumbler out and repeated the light toss. This bird did a flip on it's way down and landed on it's feet. It then flapped it's wings, which sent it into another flip.
Joseph and I watched in awe as the roller somersaulted all over the barn and the tumbler followed behind with flip after flip.
The guy, who we came to refer to affectionately as Dove Man, was grinning from ear to ear by the time he replaced them into their dwellings.
He finally trotted over to the white doves and brought out the youngest two adults he owned.
They were huge! Why I had thought doves were small, I'll never know. These two were at least the size of small chickens.
Despite being blindsided by their size, we took the doves and were on our way.
On the way home, I realized I had not planned this out as well as I had thought. The birdcage I assumed would accommodate them nicely was obviously out of the question now. One of those doves could easily fill it up on it's own, leaving not even enough room for it to stretch it's wings.
Before we got back, we stopped at Lowe's and purchased a few coop-building supplies.
We spent the rest of the night learning a new hatred for chicken wire as we cut and bent and sculpted and resculpted and complained to each other about the scratches that were turning up all over our arms.
By the time we were finished, we had a top heavy, totally impractical dove-keeping structure in our living room.
The doves themselves were also ridiculous. As a symbol of unity, tranquility, and peace, we thought they would just sit nestled in their hutch and coo all day. For the first week or two it seemed we were mostly correct, but as the wedding day drew closer, our doves became increasingly homicidal.
They began fighting with each other all the time. I came home from class one day to find one of them with a gaping neck wound and was forced to separate them for a week and a half so the wounded one could heal.
When they weren't assuming fencing poses and dueling to the death with beak assaults and winged right-hooks, they would go back to the contented nestling and cooing.
Apart, they seemed miserable, so we decided to put them back together and see if they outgrew trying to maim each other.
So intense was their feud for the higher perch, that whichever dove obtained this goal would suffer more for it, knowing that the other was constantly watching for a moment to steal his ground. Higher-perch dove would literally sleep with one eye open, always on anxious guard for a sneak attack.
Said sneak attack always came with full force the very second high-ground-dove nodded off completely.
In interest of keeping our doves alive, they were separated again by the time the night before our wedding was upon us.
I had relegated the task of moving them into the same cage again after the wedding ceremony to Grey. I knew that she was fearless, yet gentle enough to handle it.
I only hoped that they wouldn't fight each other into a bloody pulp at the reception. The symbolism of that couldn't be good.