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Wild Neighbors in Sacred Spaces

May 16, 2014
Kamakura Daibutsu and Pigeon, (c) MMD 2013

Kamakura Daibutsu and Pigeon, (c) MMD 2013

Pigeons are ubiquitous. They’re just about everywhere in urban areas (and some suburban and rural areas at that), and it’s easy to loose sight of them because they can just fade into the background. Perhaps paradoxically, emotions tend to run high when it comes to pigeons, for better or for worse. I actually think that they’re quite beautiful (have you ever stopped and really looked at one?), and their close connection to humans over thousands of years is fascinating. Throughout most of that history, pigeons (or rock doves) have been cherished by humans, whether as sources of food, pets, partners in sport, or practical messengers. More recently attitudes towards them have changed (see here for a post I wrote about this a while back).

One of my favorite things we did in Japan last year was to go visit the Kamakura Daibutsu — the Giant Buddha of Kamakura. Kamakura is a town outside of Tokyo and home to the impressive, 36-foot plus copper Buddha. If you ever find yourself in Japan with some spare time, I strongly suggest heading out that way. It is truly amazing.

While we were at the temple grounds, watching both the people and the Buddha, I noticed a few pigeons flying around, sometimes settling on the statue itself. This brought to mind another moment I had in another sacred space not so long ago. Just a nice reminder that we share many things with our wild neighbors, even if they are “just” pigeons.

Kamakura Daibutsu and Crowd, (c) MMD 2013

Kamakura Daibutsu and Crowd, (c) MMD 2013

Detail Kamakura Daibutsu, (c) MMD 2013

Detail Kamakura Daibutsu, (c) MMD 2013

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