As I stood on the sidewalk watching them soar higher and higher, then spin down occasionally and speed back up, I felt some of the exhilaration a bird must feel when it plays in the air like these coop-raised pigeons do. They love to fly and it reminded me of that poem, "High Flight" by John Gillespie McGee.
It occurred to me that those pigeons may be even closer to God than I am, standing here earth bound, watching as they "slip the surly bonds of Earth
And dance the skies on laughter-silvered wings". They "wheel and soar" and swing "high in the sunlit silence".
I knew, not for the first time, the pleasure that Ronnie gained from watching these beautiful birds chase the "shouting wind along".
I remembered a "pigeon gathering" we went to down near Stephenville many years ago. It was a meeting of Birmingham Roller enthusiasts. There was a judge present to watch the host's pigeon flock fly for competition.
This flock of twenty or thirty pigeons came out of a very small coop and flew into the sky almost as one unit. We watched as this unit climbed higher and higher in the sky until it was almost invisible. This took a long time of looking up, avoiding the sun blinding me so I lost interest and missed them coming back down. These birds were Rollers, the same kind Ronnie raised, but if any of them ever performed the backward somersaults the birds are famous for, I didn't see it.
We had a great time visiting with the variety of pigeon raisers that attended, and the friendly horses waiting at the fence for us to come scratch behind their ears.
On the way home, I asked Ronnie about the way those pigeons flew so close together. He explained that it's called "kitting". I asked how they get them to "kit". He said they raise them in very small dark coops so that being crammed together eventually becomes "normal". When they are let out of the coop, they stay together. He said that was one of the reasons he never had any interest in showing his birds. That method of training them to "kit" seemed cruel to him. He didn't care that his birds didn't "kit".
This was one of the layers of Ronnie that I loved the most, the appreciation for living things and his dedication to taking the best care of them that he knew how.
|Part of Our Flock|
And in this experience, I also felt a deep appreciation for the freedom that I have. It is my turn to soar, to find what makes me happy now, and to figure out what I believe this life is all about.
This is going to be a joy filled day for me and I hope it will be for many, many others too.
High Flight -- Enjoy!
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
- Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.