I’m not in the habit of committing copyright violations, but I had to post this picture I snapped of my favorite postcard. The photograph was taken by Martine Franck in Nepal in 1996. To me, it says everything about life. Surprising intersections of being. Humor. Acceptance. Pigeons.
Things haven’t been going according to plan around here. I mean, I have plenty more to be grateful for than I do to complain about, but I’m going to go ahead and talk about the pesky stuff, anyway. It started about ten days ago when Quince’s breathing became labored. (If you haven’t met Quince and Yuzu yet, here’s a little introduction to my two new rescue pigeons.) It was Easter weekend and there weren’t any easy or clear options for care. After about twenty semi-panicked phone calls, I found a very kind avian vet who was willing to stay late at his clinic on a Saturday evening while I drove an hour and a half to bring him my pigeon.
Long story short, Quincy had to stay two nights at the hospital and I’ve been in the car a lot — and up at 2 a.m. a lot — listening to the smallest sounds of pigeon breathing. (Is it an infection? A blockage? The results of a neonatal injury? Tracheal irritation? He wasn’t telling.) Now, he’s on a 14-day course of antibiotics — it’s fun to give a pigeon drugs by mouth — and doing quite well. While he still has some symptoms, he appears in all other ways to be a happy, hearty bird. (He’s still a world class eater, that’s for sure.) Thank goodness.
Yuzu was not pleased that I took him away for a couple of days, even though she got to come in the house and watch movies with us at night. (She seemed to enjoy Space Cowboys.) After Quince came back, she spent a lot of time looking at me like she would gladly peck out my eyes if I touched her guy again.
Which brings us to this question: Is Yuzu really a girl? In recent days, she has been behaving in ways that have us thinking we may have two boy pigeons here. (More about that in a minute.) Birds, like humans, form a diversity of beneficial familial and partnership bonds, so we’ll just wait and see who these two turn out to be. We’re open to keeping them as a pair or letting them pair up with others. As long as they’re happy, we’ll be happy. (As a related digression, here’s a photo of my neighbor’s exceptionally beautiful goose, Charlene. She has rejected all male partners and hasn’t been able to form a partner bond with another female, though she has tried. As you can see, however, she has made her own family and taken on a very important job. You’d better not mess with her ducks. She is their fierce protector.)
A couple of days ago, we did try to introduce two new birds to our pigeon house. Elizabeth from MickaCoo Pigeon & Dove Rescue brought us a wonderful pair named Betti (pronounced “Bitta”) and Tux — mature Roller pigeons who would greatly benefit from a small, quiet aviary like we thought we had here. Tux recently sustained an eye injury while trying to defend their nest box in a much larger coop. We figured our youngsters would be respectful of him and that maybe some of the grown-ups’ elegance and charm would rub off on Yuzu and Quince over time.
Our Yuzu is a terror! Displaying shocking behavior for such a young bird, Yuzu stalked the newcomers, drew a bead on Tux, and took him right down to the floor, pounding on him. I had to separate them and bring Yuzu into the house for a time out. Tux was downright depressed afterward. It’s true. You could see it. His girl Betti stayed right by his side, nuzzling him, grooming him, and doing all she could to cheer him up. My heart went out to the sweet guy. I had wanted to give him a home where he could be the boss of his own Tux-sized domain.
Yuzu’s inhospitable behavior continued, and Betti and Tux had to go back to MickaCoo. We’ve decided to remain a two-bird family for a while. If we try again, we’ll more slowly introduce pigeons of similar age and weight. Pigeons tend to work things about amongst themselves over time. Perhaps another, bigger, bird can teach Yuzu to play nice.
All of this — Quince’s respiratory relapse, Yuzu’s violent behavior, having to surrender two sweet birds — undid me more than I’d like to admit. I was so concerned with all things pigeon that I couldn’t concentrate on anything else. I missed appointments and classes. I didn’t sleep for worrying. I surely haven’t made a dollop of jam. (I did get to the pickles, though. A deadline is a deadline.) I’ve been obsessive and weepy and not much fun to live with, I’m pretty sure.
These pigeons are teaching me a powerful lesson. I’ve been holding on too tight. I can provide a solid foundation for them — a good home and responsible care — but after that it’s up to them. I have to trust their instincts, intelligence, immune systems. As I wrote in a note to a good friend, these birds are helping me learn to live with more acceptance and grace in the face of what I cannot control.
I am learning to open my hands and let the birds be birds.