Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Pigeon's Gift

Tuesday June 8, 2010:

I settle in the shade upon a rough stone wall encircling an old olive tree. The stone is scratchy against my thinly protected thighs. I’ve been sun worshipping all morning and now it is a relief to be in the shade. I breathe and still my mind.

A brisk breeze dances through the orchard. It rattles the dry leaves of the olive trees. From time to time, they scatter narrow pointed leaves upon me as I sit. On the other side of the garden, a blackbird cheerfully sings. I tune into his song, a merry salute to the sun and the day. On the wind, the town clock comes dancing, chiming the hour.

Sunlight shines through the tall window and gleams upon the polished wood of the coffin. The floor is mat grey beneath it. Parallel Rows of pews, filled with still people, are ruled across the square space as though by a precise and neat hand, wielding a great ruler. . I see the dark heads of the chief mourners, bowed and still.

Organ music swells, the congregation rise and the big space is filled with their singing. High above them, I join in unseen and unheard by any of them. My soft dove’s voice is lost amongst the swelling song

A child, now adult stands and speaks of her mother. She speaks of shared moments, of how she is changed because of that mother's gifts to her. She is talking of love.

My fingers explore beneath the dried layer of leaves. They find hard ridged olives, gritty, impenetrable and tough. I can’t imagine these stone like fruits bursting forth with salty power in the mouth as they yield softly to an exploring tongue. But these little bullets when prepared and marinade in an ageless recipe do become moist and succulent. After a struggle to eat them, I have learned to love and enjoy them.

I dabble my bare feet in the cool grass. The wind teases the bottom of my kaftan. The air is sweet with the smell of newly cut grass.

Churches, even the most low church-like of the average c of e London church, have a certain smell about them. A slight whiff of dusty book pages, something floral perhaps and something else, hard to name. I flit across the ceiling, watching the congregation stand and sing, sit and listen. I watch the sunlight play on the polished wood of the still coffin, while a mother's children, grandchildren of blood and by partnership, rise, speak of her and then sit again. I look down on them, now orfanned though they be middle-aged, still, sad, waiting.

A delicate grey-white feather, born on a hidden draft spins, spirals and settles down upon the polished coffin. It lies gently trembling in the shimmering patch of sunlight.

The bells drift to me from the other side of the valley. The hour is up. In London, the coffin is bourn away by willing bearers. I watch the feather as it trembles, begins to lift and then is snatched up and tossed into the air, as the coffin slides into the hearse.

Farewell. Thank you for being a mother." I sing in my pigeon's voice. I circle above the figures gathered together on the pavement.

I shift on my uncomfortable wall. The blackbird has stopped singing. I strain my ears to hear his voice amongst the constant twittering of the sparrows, but he is silent. I pat the tree and getting up, begin to move towards the stairs. And as I ascend the stairs, I hear the gentle, mournful coo of a collar dove.

"Droo-droo-droo", it sings sadly. "Droo-droo-droo", I sing back.


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