Archive for March 2011

Sex and the Pigeon

March 23, 2011

Spring in New York City means different things to different people.

Flowers in this morning's spring snow.

The return of color to the city, buds and leaves, lengthening days, unpredictable weather – I could go on and on.But for me, it means pigeon sex.  A few weeks ago, my air conditioner resumed its spring function as a pigeon boudoir.

Pigeons nest on ledges, tucked out of sight in the gap between my building and the one next door. They land on my air conditioner when taking a break from shared nesting duties. Sometimes a single pigeon commandeers the ac, but often a pair will land.  Paired pigeons work together to incubate eggs and rear young.  Perhaps one reason pigeon couples seem so deeply bonded is the frequency with which they have sex.

The light scraping sound of pigeon feet on metal and a particular deep rhythmic cooing make me look up from work to catch the unmistakable signs of pigeon foreplay: synchronized head-bobbing, followed by the female placing her beak in the male’s to be fed.

Foreplay

After a little more head-bobbing action, the female lowers her back until it is pretty much level with the surface of the air conditioner.

The male hops lightly aboard her back.

The female tilts forward and the male, with a great flapping of wings, manages to touch his cloaca (the all-purpose opening of both males and females) to hers for a moment.

Then he hops off and the two stand side by side for a second or two, surveying their domain.

A few days later, they’re at it again.

Getting on board

Contact

Disembarking

Afterglow

Two-Eyed Prophecy of Spring

March 14, 2011

To gain wisdom and a vision of the future, Odin drank from Mimir’s well, and plucked out his own right eye to pay Mimir’s price.

Odin's right eye still stares up from the bottom of Mimir's well. Illustration by Willy Pogany from The Children of Odin, Padraic Colum's beautiful retelling of Norse sagas

Here is my two-eyed prophecy for New York.

I have read the signs, natural and man-made, that tell the truth of the world, and the signs say:

Spring is coming. Prepare, prepare.

Spring! Spring! Spring!

Look at the signs, and interpret for yourself:

The Sign of Flowers:

First flowers in Riverside Park

The Sign of Spring Training:

Hitters on the Hudson.

The Sign of Multi-tasking Outdoor Muses

Playing the trumpet while reading the paper

The Sign of Al Fresco Dining

Starling gang fight over free pizza

The Sign of Strange Sports

Stylin' Frenchmen play bocce ball in Morningside Park.

The Sign of Mister Softee

La dee da la dee da la dee da … Somebody, please, get that tune out of my head!

The Sign of Bare Legs Despite Still-Bare Branches

Bare branches, bare legs

The Sign of Peacocks at Saint John the Divine

Blue guardian of the eastern wall

Skulker in the southern garden

And on every street: The Sign of Tiny Winged Macho Men Singing for World Domination

Small but fierce

These signs deciphered mean: spring.
O my prophetic soul!
Mark me:
Within a month, the secret garden of Saint John’s will explode into pinks and yellows.
All over the city, what grass there is will green.
In the parks, birds and squirrels will nest.
And the crack of baseball bats on balls will be heard throughout the city.
Rejoice.
Though the way be dark before us and cold rain fall,
yet spring approaches.

April 2010: Garden on the grounds of Saint John the Divine

NYC Walk/Study (with coyote)

March 7, 2011

I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks, who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering…

… in Wildness is the preservation of the world …

Henry David Thoreau, Walking

Click poster to go to Walk Study web site

New Yorkers are walkers. Whether by preference or by necessity, you pretty much have to walk to get anywhere in this city.  But some New Yorkers are walkers of a whole other order, who have, as Thoreau said, “a genius for sauntering.”  One of these is Dillon de Give

Dillon de Give, walker extraordinaire

Dillon leads an annual three-day trek north into Westchester to trace in reverse the pilgrimage of Hal, a young coyote who wandered into Central Park in 2006, and died after being captured by city officials.

Coyote walk by Dillon de Give

The coyote walk, held in early spring around the time of Hal’s death, is called laH: returning the spirit of Hal to the wilderness. Last year, I met Dillon and a small cheerful band of fellow walkers near Hallett Sanctuary and accompanied them north through the park.

On their way

I left them at 110th Street

Crossing into Harlem

and the troupe continued on their 45-mile journey.

A rest stop somewhere north of Manhattan

This spring – starting next Sunday, in fact – Dillon and his colleague Blake Morris are leading the Walk Study Training Course, “a series of meetings of walking about reading and reading about walking.”  Participants will meet for six Sundays from 3-6 to walk in the city and discuss writings by Thoreau (of course), Mary Overlie’s The Six Viewpoints, Michael de Certo, Honore de Balzac, Richard Schnechner, Bruce Chatwin and Frederic Law Olmsted, and others.  If you’re interested (and how can you not be?), please visit The Public School, New York to see the reading list and register.  The class is free.

Oh, and while not part of the class, participants are invited to join the 2011 three-day coyote walk.


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