Sunday, September 11, 2011
I was biking downhill into our downtown yesterday, on my way to pick up a book about Dogen from another member of our sangha, when I saw something odd out of the corner of my eye. As I slowed down, I watched as a pigeon jerked and then plunged to the street below. Stunned, I stopped and continued to stare for a moment as it flopped around in the middle of the passing traffic.
The cars began to thin, and I felt myself lean towards the street, contemplating a rescue. However, there was never quite an opening to run out to the bird, and anyway, it wasn't long before the flopping stopped, along with any other movement. Still, I waited. Maybe it's trying to protect itself, I thought. Somehow, the cars kept missing it, even though I doubt they all were paying that close of attention to the road.
After another few minutes of stillness, I realized that I had just witnessed the pigeon's death. There had been nothing else, really, that I could have done in that moment.
Pigeons are common birds. Probably overpopulated in many urban areas like ours. They are equal parts hated and ignored, with a dash of caring coming from mostly children who still have a curiosity about all living creatures, and who enjoy offering bread crumbs in city parks and along the river shore.
And yet, even a pigeon deserves our love and compassion. Even a pigeon can teach us to pay attention to the preciousness of our lives.