The Power of Observation: A Pigeon P.S.

Alison JamesArticles

Many moons ago, when I entered the United States, the male officer interviewing me asked: “Do you believe in polygamy?” My shocked expression and response no doubt helped to pave the way for my entrée into my life here in New York City. Our responses and reactions to what we experience through the five senses cannot but reveal our truth.  While silence is oftentimes construed as consent, body language and actions can speak volumes about our feelings, attitudes and beliefs, even when outward verbal expression is curbed.

Deliberately choosing to observe in silence, without attachment to any player, preconceived outcome or judgment, is a great exercise; it is a form of practicing being in the now, in full acceptance of what is happening before you. As I observed to myself recently, observation itself also enables us to go deeper into our own thoughts and feelings, registering our own inward reactions. We love to read a book, or go the movies or the theatre, whether for edification or entertainment, because we love to experience, to learn and to react.  Observational learning forms a major part of our development from childhood. Observation, therefore, helps us define who we are.

But there is another major benefit of observation that I would like to share here. When observing others outside of ourselves it can evoke the questioning as to the reason why they behave in a certain way.  In other words, outward observation can teach us a lot about motivation and chosen behavior, and moreover, help us redefine our own. Thus I write here a brief update on the “pigeon drama” happening outside my window that I began in Facing An Old Phobia. I have had the opportunity to make some new observations and I can say that the TV soaps have some serious competition, for things have changed.

The grey mottled mama bird has a new mate, the audacious black and white male infidel.  Not only has he taken charge of the general area, but he has claimed her too and they are the “new couple”. Perhaps she was tired of shades of grey and was attracted to a bird of a different color? Perhaps his striking appearance, his take-charge attitude and attention to her was timely? Whatever the reason, she sits back and now lets him run off other contenders off their block.

However, her former pigeon partner, the grey daddy bird, is always close by. He takes up position on the other end of the boardwalk.  The infidel’s positioning is such that he will always place himself between them. Curiously, the grey male now allows the infidel to “see him off”.  There is no fight, no flurry of feathers; he concedes his old turf.  Perhaps he is taunting the infidel with his “on” and “off” behavior?

I have observed, nonetheless, that the female willingly mates with both males and seems to treat them in the same manner.  When one is away, two get to play, no matter which two! Perhaps the grey male is now an “old flame” who has relinquished his territorial rights and the infidel is her newest and most ardent defender, the one who now protects her? The infidel, without a doubt, does not fly the coop and he maintains the area as his territory. To the victor the spoils?

This is all my projection, no doubt! Perhaps this is unconditional love at work in the bird kingdom? But what was the motivation behind the grey male’s ceding his turf and first homing rights and subsequent return? And if the infidel wooed and won the mama bird from the grey, why does she still entertain him behind his back?  She has it all going on, it seems! If the genders were reversed and “she” were a “he”, the description “two-timing philanderer” would fit the bill (oh, ha ha!).  Now it is a female philanderer who is center stage. Mmmmmmh!

So I continue to observe, questioning the motivation behind these characters before me, reviewing my own reactions and thoughts, but accepting the fact that the play that is being staged before me.  I am watching the show, sometimes sad for the infidel who works so hard; is he the one with the higher sensibilities in pigeon english? I am rather curious about the grey male’s change of behavior and intrigued by the female who obviously has a certain “je ne sais quoi”!  It all is.

The bigger question is perhaps, why is this is playing out before me, when I take the time to observe it? As Shakespeare’s Prince Hamlet says: “…the play’s the thing, wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.