Marian’s Birdseed

Look for a lovely thing and you will find it.  It is not far.  It will never be far.

-Sara Teasdale

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She feeds them, and they come.  They come because they are hungry.  Every morning at 7:30, she hauls her big bag of birdseed from her apartment over the parking lot to the green dumpster.  Then she showers the paved area to the left of the green dumpster with cups of birdseed.  And every morning, the pigeons fly down from their power lines to eat.

I saw the birds before I ever met Marian.  I saw them silhouetted against the western sky over the bayou. I saw the pigeons strung up along the power lines behind my apartment in the moments before dawn.  My dog, Eliot, and I would glance up at them on our morning walk, see them preening their feathers with the remnants of last night’s moon suspended behind them.

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And then one morning, I met her.  As Eliot and I crossed the parking, we saw all of the birds on the ground by the dumpster.  When we were twenty feet away, the birds took flight, shattering the morning silence with the flapping of their wings.  The combined force of all the wings created a strong breath of wind that hit my face, and I remembered the way the pages of the hymnal sounded when I dropped it in the wooden church where I grew up.  The pigeon wings were louder.  There were so many of them.  The light shimmered and scattered off their wings like light off water.  The rainbow sheen on their feathers mirrored the pinkening morning sky.

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“I’m sorry I scared them,” I said.

Marian shook her head and smiled.  She looked at Eliot.  “I like dogs,” she said.

“Do you feed the birds every morning?” I asked.

“Every morning,” Marion said.  “They wait for me.”

“Do they have names?” I asked.

“No.  But I know them all.  There are daughters here.  And mothers.  And grandmothers.”

I watched the birds.  Some of them were white, most of them were gray.  It never occurred to me to see them as individual living things.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Marion.  What’s your name?”

“Annie.”  When she shook my hand, tiny beads of birdseed were transferred to my palm.

“And his name?” She nodded towards my dog.

I smiled.  “Eliot.”

“He looks like a good dog.”  I walked away, and all the birds flew back down from the power lines.

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Every morning, I watch the pigeons come from all directions and circle the skies.  As I leave my apartment to go to work, I pass flocks of pigeons circling in droves to my apartment from miles away.  They land on the telephone wires, and they clean their feathers, and maybe they flap their wings a few times without flying away.

 

Revised from a model text written for my students: my This I Believe essay.  Incidentally, I believe that feeding people (or animals) builds community; I believe in cooking alone; I believe in cooking with others; I believe that there are no such things as mistakes in a kitchen, only learning opportunities; I believe in learning to see beauty in the ordinary; and I believe in Marian’s birdseed.