Thursday, 9 June 2016

Arrived! #settlingin

We woke this morning to the early dawn light pouring in through our bedroom window. This is a new experience - for the last few years we have faced the sunset. Magpies chatter, blackbirds fly low between the shrubs, a wood pigeon coos. Wonderful. This is the first day here at Morningstar.

The last few days at Barnsfield have been packing and cleaning, and we are nearly there. Inbetween, I go to school. Little time for reflection, but one happening on Moving Day will stay in our memories.

Late in the evening the night before, just at dusk, we were in the garden when we found a seagull wandering around. The dog, of course, objected furiously - she hates birds of any size or description, and watches vigilantly through the glass of the front door for avian intruders: after all, if cat burglars are well known, who knows what criminal mischief birds or rabbits might get up to? Robins are tolerated, but blackbirds are seen off with a growl and a bark.  Ducks need to be chased with insouciance. Seagulls and pigeons are annoying. Aeroplanes are scowled at thoughtfully, with a tinge of regret that they are too far distant to take real action.

So there was much Shouting At The Dog, locking her in the house, and the seagull fluttered into the air briefly, then landed again. It staggered, bumping into my bicycle as if it was having difficulty seeing, hopping awkwardly up the rockery, through fuchsia and heather, then disappeared. There was no sign of it the next morning.


Then on Moving Day itself, a pigeon landed and proceeded to take a brief bath in the pond among the duckweed and water lilies. Quite unusual, but then it didn't leave. It strutted around the edge of the pond, wandering into the corner of the wall which hosts the compost heap. And stayed. And stayed. It stood there, its eye staring almost unblinkingly at us, showing no signs of wanting to leave.

Oddly enough, after the initial objections, the dog ignored it. A clear sign that something was wrong. After all, pigeons don't usually visit us and this one - a smart blue-grey with bars on its tail (unsurprisingly, it's called a Blue Bar) - showed no signs of leaving. I noticed it was ringed, one blue, one yellow: a racing pigeon, perhaps? So I rang our friend Mick, racing pigeon expert, for advice.

Anxiously watching it to see what it should do, I said, "It's still here."
"Oh, he won't be flying off in a hurry," said Mick.
"Really? How long is it likely to stay?"
"Oh, about ten days."
"Yes, and he'll need feeding during that time.  He's too exhausted to fly off anywhere. Tell you what, I'll come round and get him if you like."

I accepted gratefully. Under normal circumstances, I would have rushed out and bought Racing Pigeon Bird Seed, but we were moving house. All the way from the Vale to Torteval - a distance of approximately seven miles, as the pigeon flies. I couldn't leave the pigeon as a weak security guard and it was Too Far to visit frequently enough. (Yes, really. Announcing that I was moving to Torteval was equivalent to saying that I was moving to the other side of the world - New Zealand, even. I'll have to bribe my friends with cake for them to even consider making The Journey.)

Mick came with his little Guernsey Racing Pigeon Club lorry, loaded with wicker pigeon carrier, a ball of string and some bird seed. (I never did work out what the string was for.) Mick crept up to the pigeon, hands spread out at the ready, pouncing on it at the last minute. Held carefully in his hands, the pigeon gazed trustingly up at The Expert, knowing it was now safe.

"Where did it come from?" I asked, expecting the answer to be France, at  least, or perhaps somewhere in the Midlands.
"Let's take a look." Carefully spreading its wing, Mick showed me the red ink label stamped on the feathers. "Oooh, it's came a long way. Maybe even as far as Torteval."  TORTEVAL? The pigeon belonged to The GRPC.   Mick carefully deposited the bird in the carrier and bade me a cheerful farewell.

So, two birds in 24 hours.

Significant: birds have played symbolic roles in our story. Eagles and other birds of prey were constant companions when Richard was gliding in Africa, soaring next to the large 'bird' with curiosity. And there have been significant individual encounters, too. Many years ago - twenty, perhaps - Richard was swimming in a pool at a game lodge in Amboseli National Reserve, Mount Kilimanjaro forming the backdrop, when a pigeon fluttered down and landed on his head. He swam to the side, where it hopped off and walked away, but not before we noticed it had a wound on its breast.

A wounded bird reflected our hearts. At the time, we were going through a period of difficulty and loss.
A bird that didn't seem to see properly reflected our own confusion when we were not sure which direction our lives should take.
An exhausted bird mirrors our tiredness.

"Yet those who hope, wait for and trust in the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles..." Isaiah 40:31
"Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see..."

How often have we found this to be true. 

Now, a new chapter. Last week before we moved, as I locked up at Morningstar after a day of gardening, I saw a wood pigeon standing, disgruntled, on the empty bird bath. He glared at me as if to say: "Where's the water? Come on, you're supposed to be looking after me."  There are already many birds flying through the shrubbery in this garden here and I sense that they will be morning visitors and will become another part of our story. Already, a robin has come to say hello.

Cat and Andy arrive in a few weeks' time. I wonder if birds will be part of their story too, somehow? Or perhaps something else significant?

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