Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Clatter of Pigeons

I usually pay no attention to pigeons. I have thought of them as fellow travelers, sharing this time and space ... quiet and usually unassuming, subtly retreating from my advance as I walk along a path or through the park.

But this evening as I walked, there was a flurry and clatter of wings on the air. The sound was overwhelming, and as I looked to my left, a horde of pigeons were swarming toward me at eye-level. It was sudden, an eruption that seemed explosive as these birds suddenly took flight and headed directly toward me as though on the attack.

I stood paralyzed by the sudden clatter and the sight of so many pigeons acting in unison. In an instant they were upon me. I couldn't help but recall the attack in Hitchcock's The Birds where the entire avian population sought revenge against our species. But that thought quickly disappeared as I tried to duck the onslaught of this sudden ambush.

At the last moment they swerved above my head and flew in formation toward the sky. As they swept by me, I felt the tremendous energy and power of their flight. I felt the wind of displaced air as they circled high and swooped downward. They were magnificent to watch, a whirlwind of wings revolving above me.

I glanced back at the spot from where they launched their invasion. A lone pigeon suddenly flew out of that obscure shady area. A straggler, I thought. There is always one that can't keep up with the pack.

But to my amazement this lone laggard flew to the head of the flock and took command, leading it to a new sanctuary. The mass fell into line behind the leader. I wondered if these pigeons had swarmed upon their leader's command, since their retreat seemed so controlled and orderly. Maybe this was just a friendly reminder that they had just as much right as I do to be here in this time and space.

As they disappeared, I felt my impressions of pigeons as fellow travelers in time and space was confirmed in this brief moment. I had seen evolution in action, an advanced protocol of a new species in the calculated control of the mob leader. I had also felt the tremendous power of the mass in its upward struggle for survival.

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