Who knew the sight of a pigeon could be so tear-producing? Not the sad kind of eye wetness. The happy kind. Happy pigeon tears.
Such was the source of my saline outpouring one evening last week in the Infusion Therapy Center (ITC). The ITC is located on the eighth floor of Mayo Clinic Hospital, Methodist campus. I was there filling up on some platelets after work. In case you ever end up in a similar predicament, cross your fingers/say a prayer/request an assignment for room 509.
According to the nurses, the room has a history of exquisite pigeon viewing. I unknowingly hit the ITC jackpot and ended up in 509 without even realizing my good fortune. Free cable access plus pigeons. What can I say? Sometimes when life hands you lemons, life also hands you all the ingredients to make a fairly decent glass of lemonade.
The ITC is a place where people receive intravenous medications, treatments, and blood products on an outpatient basis without having to be admitted. Each room has a slightly different vibe. In addition to unlimited Fritos and hot tea delivered by pleasant volunteers, some rooms even have bathrooms attached. Though now that I've experienced room 509, I'd choose quality pigeon viewing over a bathroom suite any day.
As I was getting situated in the room, I made my way over to the window. One particular pigeon was perfectly perched on the narrow 1-inch window ledge. He was peering through the glass in a highly curious fashion, as if he were creating a mental bird sketch of the room's layout for later reference. Like maybe he was working on blueprints for a new, state-of-the-art bird hospital. Whatever the reason, he was intent in his peeping.
I sat down in a chair and felt compelled to press my face to the glass. The width of the window pane was all that separated us. It's hard to describe what it was about the bird I found so enchanting. Was it his strange orange eyes? Or the drabby gray of his feathers? Not really.
Instead, in those moments, it was the way that seeing that bird arose within me a sensation of the connectedness of all things. A kind of peace and trust that came up unexpectedly. You could say it was on a wing and a prayer. But I hadn't even prayed yet that day. So I guess it was just on a wing. A pigeon wing.
There are creation encounters that propel us outside of ourselves. That provide a deep, pervasive calm. Perhaps you can think of a few of your own examples. Looking up at a sky full of stars. Sitting beside the ocean. Watching a thunderstorm roll in. Napping with a purring cat in your lap. Seeing a moose in the wild for the first time.
And now, to my list, I'll add: Closely observing a pigeon. God's presence is mysterious.
Saint Francis of Assisi (whose Feast Day is coming up Oct. 4) once wrote, "We are all creatures of one family." May we sense this truth deep in our bones, and may it inspire our attitudes and actions in every area of our lives. At home. At work. At school. And even at the ITC. We ARE all creatures of one family indeed.