So we were on our bikes yesterday
riding into a cold wind, on a wild blustery day, pedalling madly to keep warm.
Riding past the ocean, riding past the wind-kicked waves, past the dudes stripping off and putting on their wetsuits for a surf (a surf!!), past the low green hills, past the dude releasing pigeons from the back of his ute…
My girl stops.
My husband and I stop too
and we watch the birds
wheel into the sky
wings flapping madly, turning this way and that, cruising a little over the sea and back, as they get their bearings,
then off they go and away, westward and home.
My girl says, 'Can we go talk to that man?'
That man in the distance, over the grass, by his truck. The stranger, releasing pigeons into the blue.
Huh. I would never have thought to go and talk to him. I would have stood back and watched him until the cold got too much,
then ridden on.
But my girl wants to go over and ask the man questions. She wants to know what he's doing. She wants to know all about the pigeons. She wants to get close. She wants to learn something.
'Can we, Mum?'
Well, can I?
How far does my Yes stretch? To walking my bike across the long field, feeling self-conscious… ? Will he mind if we talk to him? Will he be nice? We might disturb his pigeon business. We might disturb the birds. Who in the world goes across a sea of green to talk to a pigeon guy?
The wind whips up. My girl looks up at me, sun-squinting. Waiting.
(Well, we do. Is the answer). 'Of course!' I say.
So we walk, and my son emerges from the low hills, coming back from the call of the bmx tracks there, and says, 'What are you doing?'
'Going to talk to the pigeon man,' we say. 'Want to come?'
'Of course!' he says.
We four walk, bikes rolling by our sides.
And the man turns when I call, 'Hello! Can we ask you about your pigeons?'
'Of course!' he says. And smiles.
His name is Les. He's kept pigeons, 'Not long,' he says. 'Just since 1967.'
Sure, he races them. How far have they flown? Oh, from Rockhampton in Queensland, across Bass Strait from Tasmania, home from Keith, South Australia. 'They're home in a day,' says Les proudly. 'Or less.'
They don't always come back.
'That one,' he points a thumb at the cage beside him, at one of the heads bobbing up and down, 'was got by a hawk, but I stitched him up.'
We hear about the hawks, the electronic signals in the air, all the things that'll stop a pigeon from coming home.
We hear about pigeon racing, and did you know it's huge in Belgium? Like, massive. They don't do greyhounds or horses. They do pigeons.
'I didn't think it was much of a spectator sport,' I say.
'Not at the beginning!' says Les. 'That's the boring part, that's the part for us fellas. No, they all wait at the end for them to come home. People'll bet millions of dollars on 'em. A man in Japan spent $180,000 just for one pigeon.'
'A winner?' I ask.
'He thought so!' Les grins.
You can start with a hundred and fifty pigeons and end up with none by the end of the year. You can't get attached. You just make more pigeons.
And all this time, Les is reaching back and releasing pigeons, three at a time, into the light-drenched sky.
The birds have figured out the way home from watching their friends, and fly like arrows. West.
'They'll be home before me,' says Les.
Hopefully all of them, I think. Wind-blown and blissed. With their minds alert, their feathers and bones and minds alight.
'Thanks so much, Les,' we grown-ups say,
and shake Les's hand.
And as we leave, and wheel our bikes over the grass, the kids remember, and
call out over their shoulders,
Les smiles at my girl, my boy. 'My pleasure!' he calls back.
We ride and grin.
'Wasn't that awesome??' we say to each other, to the one riding in front, the one riding behind.
Oh, it sure was.
And we wouldn't have this moment,
if not for my girl.
Asking, thinking, wanting, looking,
and for us living,
more and more, bigger and bigger,
in a land of Yes.
linking with lovely