In my nearly 38 rotations around the sun, I have found that there is a deep longing in my own being to be connected with the natural world and with the many species beyond my own with whom I share this beautiful planet. I have friends from my park ranger days who would tell me stories of people driving to a city park just to watch the animals. Nothing National Geographic or fantastical. They would sit in their car, eating takeout, and watch the deer, eating grass.
I think there is something primal and basic to the very core of our being, this longing for connection.
There is a natural tendency for people to interact with and make a personal connection with one another and with other species, animals in particular. This propensity has become even more apparent to me during my time living in the city of Brussels, volunteering at a refugee asylum center.
When I adopted a rescue dog who came from Iran and brought him to the center, some of the residents were timid or afraid but most were drawn to him like a magnet. Likewise, despite the many different iterations of signs demanding that people cease from feeding the many pigeons who also reside at the center, people continue to feed them.
I have a deep love for all animals and a special place in my heart for those who people have vilified. Pigeons seem to bring out some serious, strong emotions from people. I once saw a man on a plane wearing a shirt that stated in all caps, KILL ALL PIGEONS. I found this message deeply disturbing and attempted, in my limited French, to explain why to this man. He did not seem to care and said simply that he hated pigeons.
My theory is that it is easy to dismiss or want to ignore those beings that remind people of the fragility and struggle of life. It is easier to ignore the possibility that my comfortable life could change in a moment or that I could have been born into very different circumstances. I have never been one to follow the easier path in life, so I choose to open my awareness and my heart to feel empathy for those who, for whatever reason (twist of fate, the randomness of life, karma, etc.) do not have it so easy in this life.
Pigeons are tenacious in their determination to survive. They are unabashedly authentic in this way, which I admire. I spend a lot of time and energy tiptoeing around other people and behaving in ways that I think will make other people more comfortable. What if I stopped apologizing for who I am? What if I stripped back those last shreds of cultural training to free my inner Self?
Pigeons remind me that this could be possible, that I can be free. There may be a price from others in the form of judgment, fear, animosity, etc., but maybe that is ok? For the moment, I am not quite brave enough to step fully into this way of being, but perhaps someday. In the interim, I am thankful their are wild and willing creatures out there, hell-bent on being who they are and hiding nothing from the world, not their pain, their will to survive, or the wounds (swollen feet from netting and other materials that get wrapped around their talons; missing toes; broken wings; chipped beaks; hobs for feet) that come with the choices they have to make to live in a world that is often determined to erase them.
With all of the suffering that seems to be part of the experience of life as a pigeon on this planet, there still remains a white heart at the base of their beak, a reminder that they are worthy of love.
In this vein, I share an homage to the Rock Dove in this series of photos I taken yesterday at the asylum center. I particularly love how it looks like the pigeon who landed on my ukulele case appears to be reading the text. My dad pointed this out, and it is poignant, especially considering the lines of the text are as follows:
I could be you, You could be me
We can change the dark to light if we want to be free
We are bound together, if only we could see
I could be you, You could be me