The humble wood pigeon (Columbus palumbus)…
They made a sound from my childhood that lulled my energy when I heard it. I am sure that for some their distinct coo’ing would take them to the edge of pulling their hair out; but for me it was, and still is, one of the most relaxing calls of the wild.
I learnt about birds in my early schooling when a well meaning primary teacher decided to open the YOC, Young Ornithologists Club, as part of our after-school activities program. For me this wonderful club meant not having to go back home when the day was done and also being able to learn more about the birdlife in my peaceful wood. As you can imagine, the combination of these made me most eager to join and I was delighted to receive my paraphernalia from the RSPB stating that I was now a member.
It was this new understanding of my bird friends that led to one of the most profound ‘spiritual’ experiences I ever had as a child. I had spent many an hour pouring over books of different birds at the YOC as well as using the school binoculars to get a closer view of those that frequented the surrounding grounds. My heart would sour as I watched different species take flight and I had a sense of pride that as part of the RSPB I was helping to protect these beautiful creatures.
After one such happy hour I returned home to my dark space finding that once again all was not right with the household and, being so misfortunate to be in the pathway, I became the object of the anger that was swelling around me. My happiness evaporated amidst a torrent of shouting which culminated in a few sharp slaps as I was sent to my room. I remember slamming the door, disgruntled at the stinging pain which was gathering heat to the side of my head, and throwing myself to the floor at the foot of my bed crying. I wished so hard that I could be back in the school playground, binoculars at the ready to catch the next bird as it showed me its characteristic warble and flight.
It was at this point that I became acutely aware of my breathing. Crying so hard had brought about a heaving type breath that I could feel coming from deep inside my chest. My hands had curled tightly into balled fists which had begun to throb with the strength my little body was using to keep them closed. It felt as though my heaving breath pulled at my core in time to the throb which had travelled up my arms and into my chest. I could feel another deep wracking sob coming upon me and I closed my eyes fearing it would pull me apart if I let it escape from my mouth.
It was then that I felt it… the entire room had begun vibrating to the throbbing in my body. I allowed the sob to come from me and as I threw my arms out to my sides the walls of the room blew outwards as though my energy had flung them away. I was lifted from where I sat and carried out past the house and over my old familiar wood.
Looking down I had a sense I was flying like my beloved birds high above the trees, and a calmness came to me like I’d never known. The wood pigeons lifted from the branches of the trees and joined me in my flight. “Trust the wind” they said, “it will carry you; feel the sun, it will warm you”. The pigeons seemed much larger than I and it felt that I must be a much smaller bird, possibly a Wren (Troglodytes), as I flew with them.
I didn’t return to my room until I opened my eyes.
In physical reality I hadn’t left the space I occupied, the walls were in the same place as they’d always been and the vibrations had subsided. Yet on a spiritual plane my energy was renewed from the adventure and I would call upon this experience endless times when my life began to feel out of control. At that tender age I had felt my connectedness to the birds and would develop that feeling over the years to connect to other creatures.
This, along with talking to the trees, had begun my path towards alchemy and understanding the powerful transmutation of energy.