This I Believe

Shae - Berkeley, California
Entered on August 11, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

My first thought was: Why is there a chicken on my windowsill? It was late November, nearly dark, and pouring rain—and there at the window of my urban apartment was a very damp, very large white bird. Puffed up against the cold, it looked like a chicken to me, which tells you what I knew about birds at the time—almost nothing. But even I, after staring for a while at its bobbing head and graceful wings, eventually realized it was a pigeon. One wet, white, lost pigeon.

There was thunder, it got dark, and the pigeon kept watching me through the window. Clearly, this wasn’t normal. I wasn’t sure what to do. I found a box, covered it with plastic, and set it out on the fire escape with some shredded newspaper inside. Then I turned away, sure that no bird in its right mind would walk into such a trap.

When I looked again, the bird had settled into the box. It regarded me with a perfectly round black eye, and then it went to sleep.

In the morning, I called the local wildlife rescue.

Does it have a pink beak?

I looked. Yes, it does.

Does it have pink feet?

Yes, two of them, four toes each.

It’s domestic, they told me. We can’t take it.

So we headed for the vet. In the office, the bird launched itself off the table, ran across the room, and stood behind me, looking up at the bearded doctor. It’s about three weeks old, he said. Can’t quite fly. If you put it back outside, it won’t survive. The humane thing to do is euthanize it. Or, adopt it.

I was studying for law school finals. I was struggling with a prolonged and pronounced depression. What would I do with a pigeon? I answered that question every day for the thirteen years that Luna lived with me.

I let her lead the way. She learned to fly, using my head as a favorite perch. Her voice changed from a baby bird’s squeak to a raspy growl to the full-throated coo of an adult pigeon. She developed her own loves: sunflower seeds, neck rubs, and listening to music—especially the cello.

And somehow, watching her being find its shape—from the tiniest white feathers on the top of her head to the way she’d haul off and whack me with a wing if she got mad—meant that I could never again take the ordinary for granted.

Even though Luna is gone now, it has come to be that in times of distress or confusion, all I need is the presence of a bird—any bird—and my mind opens wide, pliable and undivided. Observing this the other day, my boyfriend asked: What if the world is one big bird? What if that wholeness is always there?

This I believe.

And I believe that in the birdness of this great big world, every pigeon matters.