God blows on the world-reed,
each note of longing,
passion, to be felt through us!
Be your note…
Remember the source of this wind-breath.
Yesterday, as I drove out of the driveway of the shelter where I work, I spied a pigeon sitting in the middle of the road. I drove around it, and it didn't move.
I stopped and looked in my rear-view mirror to watch it. Something was wrong.
I backed up and kept watching it. It didn't move.
I got out of the car. Several clients were standing on the sidewalk looking at it.
It didn't budge.
I approached it slowly. Still it didn't move.
As I got closer I couldn't see any blood. No evident trauma. But still the bird sat still. It's head twisted backwards, pressed against its breast. Its one visible eye was bright red, almost dilated looking.
A client approached. "What do you think is wrong?" he asked.
I don't know, I replied. But we can't leave it here. I looked around hoping to see a box or something I could put it in. I'll take it to Animal Services, I said.
Another man walked up. "You should just wring its neck," he said. "It's life is pure misery. Everyday. It's been like that since birth. You should just kill it and put it out of its misery."
I didn't know what to say. I didn't know if it was true. Or not. Was it's life pure misery? Had it always been so?
The pigeon didn't seem to be in any distress. Just somewhat comatose.
I looked at the man who had spoken. His eyes were wide. His face sunken in with that look that heavy Crack users get after months of abuse.
I can't do that, I told him. I have to see if I can get him help.
The man shrugged his shoulders, "You can't help him. Nobody can," he said as he shuffled away.
The other client, the one who had asked me what I thought was wrong, offered to get me a bag so that I could put the bird in my car. He ran off, grabbed a plastic shopping bag and came back.
I went to the back of my car and took out a cloth shopping bag. "If you could just pick him up and put him in this bag that would help. At least it has a flat bottom.
"Sure," replied the man.
A native woman stood beside him. Unsteady on her feet, she kept bending down to pet the bird. "Poor thing," she said. "He's scared and hurting."
I smiled and held the cloth bag open to receive the pigeon.
The pigeon didn't move as the man gently picked it up, his hands protected by the plastic bag. It didn't move as he placed it in the cloth shopping bag and it didn't move as I carried it towards the car.
"You should probably put it in the front seat and keep the window open," the man advised me. He smiled. "Just in case he decides to fly free."
Good idea, I replied and gently placed my avian companion on the front seat.
The native woman approached. "Can I see him before you go?" she asked.
Of course, I replied.
She stepped into the open doorway, peered into the bag and whispered softly to the bird who still hadn't moved but eyed her with its beady red eye.
"He'll be okay," she said as she stepped back from the door so that I could close it. "I've sent him off with a wing and a prayer." And she laughed.
I smiled and said, "Thank you."
She touched my arm. Gently.
"Good luck," she said.
Thank you, I replied.
"Most people wouldn't have stopped to help him," she said. "They would just have pretended they didn't see him."
I'm glad I stopped, I said and got into the car.
I drove off, the couple walking away in the opposite direction towards the shelter doors.
The bird was handed over to animal services. I had my suspicions of what might be wrong -- and I could be wrong. I hope I am.
But it does happen that sometimes birds will eat drug laden bits of food, or scraps that have fallen to the ground.
Sometimes, people feed it to them intentionally.
Sometimes, people feed dogs their drugs first to see if they are 'good' drugs. Sometimes, they do it just for kicks.
Sometimes, people are cruel. Sometimes they're not.
And sometimes, there is no explanation for the things we do.
Sometimes, I just don't understand.
Borrowing from one of my other favourite Middle Eastern poets, Omar Khayyam,
"The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly — and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing."
For that pigeon and the addicts around him, the bird has but a little way to fly between life and death.
And I pray it has a safe flight in what ever direction it goes.