Ferdinand Jasper, a Pigeon Parable

In our house, we love animals. Caroline and I constantly dote on our Charlie-cat, we get excited when a hummingbird hovers at the window, and we give way too much attention to the caterpillars devouring our parsley plant.

We also tend to anthropomorphize every creature we meet.

We make up elaborate back-stories about squirrels, like one Dr. Paul J. Crumb who knows in his heart that chicken nuggets are bad for him but just can’t say no. The pigeons that hang out in our driveway we’ve named The Pigeon Brothers; they sell home appliances to local birds. And don’t even get me started on Stormie and Gloria, cats that roam the neighborhood.


Our summer vacation to visit friends in Hawaii required a night in an airport hotel. We checked in early in the evening and braced ourselves for a very early flight the next morning. Since this hotel is right across the street from LAX, we could look out the window and see planes landing and taking off, one after another.

Before the sun went down, Caroline spotted a white pigeon on the ledge of the seventeenth floor. He sat there with his little bird’s eye view of the airport, apparently absorbed in the non-stop action of take-offs and landings.

Suddenly, another pigeon had the nerve to land on his ledge. The white pigeon appeared to tolerate it for a brief moment, then squawked and shooed it away. Alone again, the pigeon sat there eyeing the giant flying beasts.


We couldn’t resist. And so, this pigeon quickly became Ferdinand Jasper who began to speak in a high, lispy voice about his longing to fly in an airplane.

“Oh, how I wish I could fly,” he said to no one in particular, having fended his ledge from every friend or foe.

Of course, none of his winged colleagues were there to remind him he actually could fly.

Maybe not as far as an airplane,

maybe not as fast as an airplane,

but more gracefully,

with more spontaneity.

After watching the others, comparing his wing span to theirs, dreaming of their faraway destinations—like Honolulu and Boston and Akron—he failed to remember what he was capable of.

All the hours spent watching the enormous aluminum birds—with fancy names like Southwest and Delta and United—had diminished his view of what he could do.

Ferdinand Jasper was a bird

who forgot his birthright.

His birthright was flight.


And what, my friend,

were you born to do?

pigeon 2 looking away