Saturday, August 01, 2009

20 the slumbering Pigeons

Tuesday July 28, 2009:

I am so tired. It’s been a hard day. I’ve chaired a heavy meeting about domestic and sexual violence as experienced by older and disabled people and it’s really done my head in. I’ve chaired a another tough meeting and have then staggered around endless badly maintained South London streets, trying to find a tube station. Every hump and bump in the pavement, every change of surface and every veering around crap dumped on the path has torn shrieking aching pain from my poor knees. Now, when I really want to saunter along a beautiful nature reserve and enjoy the waning of the day, I can hardly walk.

I stagger along beside my patient companion as we move along the Parkland Walk. We’re going to find pigeons to commune with. It’s late, almost dusk. The hedgerows are ominously quiet as we stump past them.

Still it smells like summer, all green and sweet. And it’s not actually raining for once, although the sky lies low over our heads in a rather threatening manner. Blackberries are ripening on the hedges. WE pause and my companion feeds me a ripe one, small, sweet and tart all at once and intensely blackberryish.

Finsbury Park is populated with groups or individuals occupied variously in marshal arts, football, jogging, screaming at the ducks and trying to push each other into the pond (that latter group, a gaggle of teenage girls!). I grumble as I walk slowly along, wishing I’d not had this idea for one more commune with the birds but gone straight to bed. My mind is full of examples of abuse and I can feel tears not far away. I don’t know if they are for me, my knees or those who have experienced such abuse. I can also feel a seething anger bubbling somewhere inside me. I breathe and we walk on.

I have to sit down. We find a bench and sink down on to it and cast a circle.

“Come feathers on the wind, fluttering and scirring, circling and descending, gentle, soft in the dawn light, grey like you are, come fluttering ones, come!

Come gilded winged ones as you soar into the noon day sun, dark against its brightness, your wings aflame with its rays, come glittering ones come.

Come swooping and curving, fly low over the water and watch yourself shining there as you fly, cooing your liquid song. Come flowing ones come!

Come, you who walk the earth, feet firmly on the ground, strutting, bobbing and bowing, pecking curiously at anything edible. Come strutting ones come!

And you who circle and spiral, in the wind, under the sun, over water and on the earth, spiral an circle and connect. Come spiralling ones, come!”

We scatter seeds and crumble fairy cakes and sit back and wait. The shouts of the footballers pierce the air. A panting runner pelts by. The traffic on Green Lanes hums as the wind dances in the tree tops.


Nothing. Not a chirrup, a coo or a flutter. Only, so my companion tells me, the silent cautious approach of two crows, come to check out what’s on offer and to stand guard so no other bird gets it.

“go to the trees”, comes the message. We get up and walk towards trees. And then I hear a gentle cooing. My companion tells me quietly that we are near a tree upon which three pigeons sit and that there are others high up in the trees here.

We stand beneath them and scatter more seeds and cake. And we wait. The wind shakes the trees. The footballers are now charging around the running track. A dog is barking and an owner barks back a command witch is ignored. I breathe and tune into the quiet energy of the birds above me.

Slowly I relax. Slowly, I feel the pain in my heart slip away. I close my eyes and I can feel the soft fluttering wings touching, stroking me, soothing and gentling me. Softly, in my ear they coo as though to say “there-there, there-there” and I feel comforted. And I say silently to the birds:

“Stroke me with your wings,
Tender as the breeze
Feathery caress
Gentle me to sleep”



The dove is associated with love, peace and gentleness. In my bird oracle it is also associated with forgiveness. I can’t bring myself to forgive those who perpetrate such terrible acts against others made vulnerable by their situation, but I can soften my heart towards myself, forgive myself for being so hard on myself, because I too have been so hurt. I coo softly to the silent birds, now settling down to sleep.

And out of the sky, from high up in another tree, a final, triumphant deep brurring coo, “droo-droo-droo, droo-droo” comes. I bob my head, pigeon-like, and make my farewells. How fitting, at the end of pigeon time, to meet them at their bedtime, I think, as we leave the park.

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