In the ebb and flow of trying to fly back home from Washington, DC a friend sent a link to a news article to read while I waited at Gate 22. Across the ocean and underneath one of the oldest cities in Europe, a network of underground caves holds that city up. It’s illegal to crawl around in that depth of centuries-old-murky-history, but there are those who do it anyway. And why? Because they’ve discovered that coming to terms with whatever it is underneath the ground you stand on can make you strong.
We start out in gopher heaven. Only a few grandfather gophers are out. Between here and there we weave through squirrel country and shallow platters of frozen ponds. Can we find the ice that cracks beneath our step? The ice that gives good glide? And what is this — a scattering of feathers?
i could not bring myself to take a photo of the fluff.
I stop to examine every find, every feather. My brother has been here before. He doesn’t look down; he looks up and points. Ahead and towering over the railroad tracks are the grain elevators. Remember the Murphy kid? – he asks: He shoveled grain in the silos during high school. Murphy wasn’t afraid to climb the ladders to the top.
And at the top of the silos are tracks of sticky tape roosting pigeons get stuck to. The grain company cannot risk having pigeon droppings mixing with the grain. Murphy’s job was to collect the pigeons in a cage to be delivered to the trap and shoot club.
But the baby pigeons? My brother pauses and gestures to the downy fluff frozen to the ground near the tip of my boot. Those are their feathers, he says quietly. Baby pigeons cannot fly.