I have been terribly busy these last two weeks figuring out the universe. I’ve been struggling, for instance, with the question of Plato, and whether his perfect world of ideal forms has been perhaps the single most alienating influence in the Western world, an influence which is alive and well and has convinced millions of people that we really don’t belong here on earth at all.
Alternatively, I’ve been speculating that the “not one of us” mandates supported by so many religions is the most destructive and evil influence in the world today, out-ranking greed, the desire for revenge, weapons of mass destruction, even vast swathes of environmental destruction.
Then something a little less esoteric appeared in our back yard. At first we thought it was one of the many wood pigeons that make this patch their home. It seemed unable to fly and we wondered if it had been attacked by a local cat. Then we realized it wasn’t a wood pigeon at all. It’s feathers were a different color, and it bore a band on each of its legs. It didn’t belong in our yard: it belonged to somebody. But it walked- literally – up to our sun-room door clearly asking for help.
I went to Google and confirmed that it was a racing pigeon, possibly worth several thousand pounds. The professional advice was to hope that our pigeon was not lost but merely exhausted and we were a potential pit stop. If so, putting out water and grain for 48 hours would be sufficient and then “Fred” (the name given by said expert) would be reinvigorated sufficiently to continue his journey home. A friend put me in contact with a neighbour who said a racing pigeon had been blown off course during a storm several years ago onto their property, and offered her help. Her daughter, she said, was an expert. Well, not exactly an expert, she later clarified. Her daughter was eleven years old. But she’d bonded with their pigeon, and would love to be able to help.
I gathered some uncooked grains and seeds together from our kitchen and took a tray and a bowl of water out to Fred, who greeted me with a whoop of enthusiasm. This went on for 36 hours, and we could see the pigeon was gaining strength, flying onto the high roofs of nearby houses, and returning regularly for sustenance. But after 48 hours it was time to suggest to Fred that he should now go home. I bravely went out and withdrew the grain and seeds. Fred was nowhere in sight and I was relieved.
But at 5:00 he came for his evening repast. Seeing that there was nothing there, he came up to the sun-room door and pointed out that it was time for dinner. No, I said, you need to go home. You are strong enough and competent enough — you do not need me any more to baby you. But I felt like a wicked witch.
The next morning he was perched on the low edge of the roof looking forlornly down at the empty spot where the food had been.
All right, I said, if you are still here tomorrow morning, I will borrow the unused cat cage I’ve been offered, and put the food in there. That way I can read the numbers on your leg band and contact your owner. You might even have his name and telephone tucked under your wing. But I had to walk away. I could hardly bear my own cruelty – even if my head was telling me that what I was doing wasn’t best for me – it was best for Fred.
By early afternoon, he was gone. I spent the next day hugely relieved that I’d been strong enough to send him on his way when it was time.
Oh, but that’s not the end of the story!
Two days later he was back at our door.
I went immediately and put some grain in a bowl, but by the time I returned just minutes later he was gone.
We haven’t seen him since. I’ve decided that he found his way home.
But you know, somehow I think it was a lot more important that I worried about Fred, than that I worried about Plato.