A Journey With Blackbirdowl

Saturday, July 25, 2009

19 gentle Pigeons – Regent’s Park

Friday July 24, 2009

I have asked the weather gods to let us have a dry evening. The sun has retreated behind the clouds but at least it is not actually raining.

July is a glorious month for municipal flowers. In June the roses abound, but in July, all manner of flower turns its face optimistically towards the sun. tonight, the flowers of Regent’s Park are doing their very best.

My companion has a way with words. She paints a feast of colours and textures as we walk through the park.

The Victorians knew a bit about floridness. We pass beds of dramatic deep velvety reds, as rich and robust as a plush curtain. They stand against black purple leaves, dramatic and stark.

A great bowl, borne on the backs of griffins burgeons nay even riots with blooms. It is dark purple and pale yellow, stark and startling.

Head high thistles make us feel like the little people. I reach up and explore their shaggy heads with my long cane.

A fountain splashes noisily. Pigeons flutter on the ground, soft white and cream, navy, grey and black, ringed, barred and plain.

We head for a bench under a tree. I dance around it scattering bird seed, casting a circle in a very literal sense. We sit down and along come the birds.

My companion waxes poetically about their beauty. A huge one with light grey wings and a purple brown chest with a white collar and turquoise blue shot silk head struts magnificently and then flies off. Three hungry pigeons variously grey with rainbow collars, peck industriously at the trail of seeds. The sky lowers and it begins to rain heavily.

I pull out two umbrellas, for my companion dresses for elegance rather than protection. I spread plastic over our knees.

“oh, there’s one with pink feet” she exclaims. We’re not sure if that isn’t perhaps a curious an interloping duck, happily paddling in the little lake which is gathering at our feet as the sky lets go its Burdon of rain.

“so much for the weather gods,” I say, getting up and preparing to move to somewhere more sheltered, “I can’t have made myself clear!”. We pack up and soggily walk off in search of shelter. As we leave the circle of munching pigeons, the rain stops and the sun pushes the clouds away.

We stand in its warmth, faces turned to drink in its energy and I cast another circle for the birds. A scirring of wings, a gentle fluttering, and down they come, encircling us, feasting, bobbing and bowing as they eat as though in thanksgiving for the bounty of the seed.

Cold and hunger has overtaken us and we walk on in search of hot food. From amongst the trees, a pigeon coos. I feel myself relax and smile to hear its soft gentleness. I coo back feeling suddenly very happy.

Before we know it, we are in the rose garden. The air is sweet with their gentle perfume. We stand in a shaft of sunlight and I cast another seed circle. Pigeons flutter from out of nowhere and begin to feast.

I feel something scratching at my left ankle, something heavy an furry. A huge great fat squirrel, bold and greedy is attempting to scale my left leg. I shake him off and he scampers round me and assaults my other leg. I dip my hands in the seed bag and toss them to him, as he grumpily tries to see off the pigeons. My trousers, the seed and my dignity is saved by the appearance of a small boy, determined to stroke the little creature. We walk on.

My companion’s hip hurts. My knees aren’t feeling too great ether. We’re both damp. We sit down on a bench and I scatter more seeds and sit to wait whilst she answers her phone.
Down come the fluttering ones. Scirring and whirring, they fill the air with their soft wings. Behind me, one coos and flutters, another alights to my right with a “thwo-thwo-thwo” of beating wings.

“ah” I say to myself as I feel my heart warm. Aphrodite’s doves circle us in love on the edge of the rose garden.

I sit in circled, enfolded by winged ones as they bob and peck, bow and dance about me. I hear their fluttering wings, their sweet cooing, I feel their energy, peacefully content.

“Beautiful rock doves” I whisper to them, for that is what they are, “thank you for being here, for being all over London, for being the symbol of London.” And I fall to thinking of how the pigeon comes to me, the messenger between the worlds, the symbol of peace and forgiveness and love, and I am happy.

My companion has finished her rather difficult phone call. She tells me of the black swan that I can hear noisily bathing in the nearby lake. Ducks quack and the pigeons continue to feast and coo and bob and bow.

We are both cold. I coo at the pigeons in farewell, toss them more seeds and walk off in search of hot soup.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Riding the dove

Tuesday July 7, 2009:

At about09:20 on 7th July 2005, the last of four bombs went off in London. Today, four years on, the moon is full at that time on this day.

I sit down amongst the caster oil plant in my usual place and prepare to mark the moment.

I am kneeling on something soft yet muscular. It is silky and it moves under me.

I reach down and stroke it. It is the great soft feathers of a huge dove.

We rise slowly into the sky, high into the silver-blue of a fine July morning. Below, the green trees turn and as the earth falls away, the patchwork of green, grey and brown becomes indistinct.

The sky darkens around us as we soar high into the emptiness beyond it. Below us, the earth spins, glittering against the black. Flashpoints of brightness, points of conflict burst in red, yellow and gold from it’s surface.

Down there, people are fighting, hand to hand, with explosives and with weapons of mass destruction. I despair to see it. I vainly search for something which will tell me what to do, but I don't know where to turn.

Astride my dove, we circle and circle. I'm looking for a green light, but I don't know what that means. We ride on around the earth. I am filled with a huge sadness.

The anti-war chant by Goddesses Against Armed Aggression suddenly pops into my head and, clinging to my dove, I begin to sing:

“War is not the answer.
The answer is to change.
We stand in her power and call out her name.
Gaia, Gaia.”

We are soaring high up in the blue sky above land. I feel the power of the muscles beneath me. My head spins. I cling on with my knees and hands.

Land is hurtling towards me. I hold my breath as we alight with a flutter of scirring wings safely onto the ground.

I am still. It is cold. I feel the loss of the warm soft feathery heat of the great dove.

In the quiet, a cat walks heavily along the fence. It climbs down amongst the apple tree and stalks, velvet paws step carefully amongst the flowers. They shake with its passing.

Something else climbs over the fence and stands by the shed. It is tall and still, standing to my right. It just watches, stands and watches.

Somewhere to my left along the Parkland Walk, a wood pigeon coos softly, gently, comfortingly. I listen and feel again the soft silky feathers and the strength of the muscles beneath. I imagine what it might be like to shelter underneath the great wings.

With a burst of mellifluous sweetness, a wren begins to sing. She sits in a tree just on the other side of the fence. I feel she is singing for me and to me. I allow the silver shining arpeggio of sound to wash over me, touching my cheek with its coolness, like a tender breeze.

In stillness I wait, the presence to my right still standing, still watching, unconditionally witnessing me.

Like a shaft of sudden sunshine, the blackbird begins to sing. His song, a deeper more resonant bell tolls the day as it spirals and pirouettes in the quiet morning air.

Behind the blue sky, the moon moves to its height. The blackbird stops. The pigeon takes over. The wren follows on. The trees shiver in the gentle breeze as the air clears.

Back and forth across the garden, the caressing tender scirring of the birds gives shape to the spaces between the trees and plants. I imagine them drawing silver threads across the garden, shaping the space with gracefully moving wings as they brush against the leaves shaken by the prowling cat. What shape do their silver threads make? What is their message?

In the corner of the garden, the presence stands and witnesses. I breathe with the winged ones, with the breeze and with the stalking cat.

The day makes itself felt. I hear a car purring along the road on the other side of the house. My neighbour starts to sing to her little boy. The moon is rising invisibly in the sky.

Slowly I get to my feet, turn and bow low to the presence and blow a kiss in its direction. I turn to wave at the birds before padding as slowly and as quietly as the cat, back to the house.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

La Alpujarra dawn chorus

Thursday June 25, 2009:

The dogs have been at their own canine chorus all night. Tuning them out, I listen to the silence as I lie in my bed. Is that a cock in the distance? Who is cheeping so insistently in the middle of the night?

Pulling my pink kaftan over my still sleep warm body, I tiptoe out of my room and into the quiet garden. I climb the stairs to the roof and lean against the rails to listen to the morning.

The cock down the road has been singing for some time. Up here, I hear another answer him. A lone sparrow has been cheeping all by itself, now I hear its companions begin to join it.

A solitary blackbird on the other side of the main house sings a florid suite of notes. I tune my ears into him hungrily. I feast on his song, picking its sweetness from amongst the tapestry of sounds, like isolating the progress of a piece of gold thread highlighting a green leaf in a busy picture.

And between blackbird and the sparrow, inserting itself into the space left beyond the crowing of the cock, I hear another song, a deeper rich tone, two clear notes, sometimes a minor fifth, sometimes a perfect fourth. Like a tuneful, lazy wolf-whistle, it pierces the air. I listen, and then begin to sing back.

Golden arcs of sound glitter from the golden oriole herself, liquid circles of beauty fill the air. For a while we duet contentedly as the sun rises over the mountains.

Beyond the blackbird, beyond the oriole, another song rises up. Robin or Wren, I wonder. Of course it is neither of these, but it trills so beautifully in the cool morning air. A Black Cap perhaps, I speculate, beginning to feel a little bit excited.

I tune my ears and listen on as I trace each songbird’s part in the gentle morning soundscape. No doves yet, I note, wondering when they are going to get out of bed, for I know they are about the place somewhere.

From amongst the general twittering of house sparrows in the old lady olive tree, I hear the gentle scirring of wings fluttering as a bird flies away. The sound is almost a Burr, a loose lipped blowing of the most tender and playful kind. I burr back and softness settles in my heart. I imagine silky wings beating against fragile leaves which shake in the morning breeze and sigh contentedly.

I climb down the stairs and stand amongst the sparrows on the lawn and allow myself to be washed in their cheerful chirping. In the distance the golden oriole calls and beyond, the blackbird sings his more complex song.

“morning," I say to the birds, the trees and the quiet courtyard and make my way towards the pool and my early morning dip.

A Bird’s Eye

Sunday June 21 2009:

The gentle drumbeat thumps through the sleeping mountain air. I call air, fire, water, earth. Here is the dawn of the longest day. I dedicate my morning ceremony to fruition, to celebrating the peaks of achievement.

I journey up the mountain, moving between high rocky walls, the valley bottom and the tall crags. I am a bird skimming across the beautiful body of the goddess, stroking and caressing her with my wings as I fly.

High across the mountains I soar, to the blue sea fringed edge of the land into the sun and the clear blue air beyond. The earth spreads out under the noonday sun. It reveals its glories with abundant pride. Celebrate success I feel it shout!

I fly up to a cliff top; the tower on its summit reaches a tall stark finger into the clear blue sky. I settle down on top, wings furled, a-roosting and survey my life.

I see myself at all ages, each incident like a necklace stretched out on the land dark and light, bright and dull. I survey myself and see my struggles. I feel great compassion. I also feel pride mixed with sorrow, for I know it has been hard but it has also been triumphant.

I bow to myself in all my ages and return to that trusting young self, she who is at the place before violation, the one that trusted her to be loved. Like wings stretched out to catch the eddying winds of the afternoon, I open myself up to that trust. I trust that everything will be alright, that I will be safe, That I am wanted and appreciated. Let my good intentions be known and honoured. Let me trust that others have good intention towards me. I return to the roof.

I begin to sing
"I am the rising sun,
I am the change
I am the one I am waiting for
And I am dawning."

It is done, so mote it be!

Torimolinos dove

SATURDAY June 20, 2009:

I lie sprawled on my back in the Toremolinos hotel Garden. The tufted grass is rough against my thinly clad thighs. Stretching out under the cool shade of the straw awning, I allow my body to relax.

Normally, at this stage of my journey to La Alpujarra, I am fraught and exhausted. Something weird happens to people in airports! They access the most un-resourceful and selfish of states. It soon becomes very clear that they seem me as a problem!

This time, I decide that I would go in hopefulness and trust and see what happens. I make an effort not to engage with anxiety.

"When did I lose my sense of trust and adventure?” I muse to myself, my inquiring fingers teasing out the thick blades of grass. Between the ages of 19 and 22, I had no qualms in going off all over Europe each summer. I had all I need on my back; I knew where I was meant to be going and how I would get there. I didn’t engage with problems, I simply trusted that it would be fine – and in general it usually was.

Sure, there were times when I landed up somewhere and whoever was meant to meet me had not turned up. Kind older men would offer me dinner which I would accept and a night in a comfortable hotel, which I would not. Even being taken into protective custody by the local police somewhere in the far east of Holland only slightly dented my equilibrium. In the end, everything always turned out fine.

Sometime in my early twenties I lost the art of travelling solo. I had a partner, or friends, or PAS instead. Always, there was someone to take care of everything for me. I just had to be and do and arrive.

In June 2000, I decided to go on holiday by myself to a place I’d never been, to be with people I did not know. It was unfortunate that the day I chose to do this, the air traffic control computers failed! Cutting a long story short, I arrived alone at 1 am in the morning in a strange airport, with only a faint idea of where I was meant to be going. A glimmer of that old trust was back, I allowed myself to go with the flow and everything was fine, just fine.

I listen to the buzzing of flies. One is gently caressing my bare arm. I flick it away lazily. My companions are chatting about this and that, the "who are you?" of humans newly met. Behind their well-modulated politeness, children shriek as they cast themselves with a certain amount of splashing abandon into the nearby pool.

And then I hear it. the gentle, serious, "Droo-droo-droo" of a collar dove. I allow its soft song to stroke me gently as I relax further. And then I remember, today is the first day of pigeon, according to the Almanac of Blackbird Owl!

“My feet hurt" I murmur under my breath, reminding myself of just how to tell what kind of dove is behind the cooing.

"Ah, the sound of summer” I murmur to myself and listen in my mind to the thwack of leather on willow, the distant chugging of an old fashioned train,
the humming of bees and the feel of grass against naked arms, its sweet green smell wafting through the air under the cool shade of the wide branched tree. ubiquitous, definitely imitable and singable; from the gentle dove to his more rambunctious feral neighbour the London pigeon, I welcome to my life these dear birds. hail pigeon, hail.