Dinosaurs, Pigeons, and King Solomon
I don’t claim to be King Solomon, but it was quite clear, at least to my mind, what our dogs were thinking when they observed a woman bringing her dog to the riverfront in a stroller; “why don’t we have strollers?”
I tried explaining that as legally certified service dogs they should be carrying us, but they refused to listen. They wanted strollers. “How do you expect Mommy and me to push three strollers?” Earned a snort and dismissive, “double stroller.”
I felt that I should take this up with the woman, explaining that we expected her to pay for dog therapy. She carefully listened and explained, “Oh! Please tell them that my dog is very slow and it’s hard for him to walk.”
Our dogs were there. They heard her as well as did I, but they refused to accept her explanation. She profusely apologized before realizing she was participating in a “conversation” with three dogs; through me, that is. Just as she began to ask how I knew what they were saying, I saw a police K-9 unit and walked away, explaining that my dogs wanted to apply for a job with the police department.
She accepted my explanation.
We approached the policewoman and I told her that my dogs wanted to apply for a job with her. I understood that speaking for three dogs to the police could land me in the looney bin or in jail, but, thankfully, the policewoman took me seriously and looked at our dogs and said, “I’m so sorry babies, but you are too old to be trained!”
Once I was in my “conversing with animals” mode I began imagining all sorts of conversations with the flocks of birds who – from Debbie’s perspective – haunt our early morning walks. Primarily pigeons, which, of course, took my mind back to King Solomon.
When I was a little boy, I would devour all sorts of children’s books about Biblical characters and famous rabbis. However, when I read stories of King Solomon conversing with animals, I had enough! All the animals in the Midrashic stories were impossibly smarter than human beings. I was incensed that I was expected to believe these stories and went to the Highest Authority in The Land, The Man Who Could Answer Any Question, my father zt”l.
He promptly gave me a copy of Charlotte’s Web and told me I would find the answers inside. E.B. White somehow captured the voices of animals in a convincing way, perfectly consistent with the nature of the individual animals. He wasn’t pretending to actually converse with other beings. He used his powerful imagination to capture personality traits. Was this a hint of King Solomon’s insight into animals? Was this ability to “hear” animals related to Adam naming the animals that came to visit him in the Garden? Did the Snake actually speak to Eve? Was King Solomon hearing the echoes of that primal animal to human communication? Back I went to the Highest Authority in The Land, The Man Who Could Answer Any Question, my father zt”l.
Before I could ask my father, one of my sisters noticed me reading Charlotte’s Web and told me, “Oh, I love E.B. White! He really knows how to listen to animal voices!”
I was intrigued, “Do you mean like King Solomon?” She handed an E. B. White short essay for the New Yorker in which he describes interviewing a bird that, refusing to fly south for the winter, remained in New York City despite the cold. I couldn’t believe the power of his imagination used to bring a bird to life as a personality.
There was a copy of the newest Natural History magazine in the bathroom and there was an article about a different type of listening, “Shakespeare In The Bush.” How the Tiv of West Africa understood Hamlet. They could not imagine interpreting the story as would someone with a Western education. King Solomon’s ability to listen to Creation with an open heart was necessary even between two human beings. I understood it to be that King Solomon knew how to listen more than his knowing how to speak.
These memories were passing through my mind until a high-pitched voice demanding, “Hey, you, why are you staring at me,” broke my reverie. A seagull balanced on a broken wooden pillar from a long-gone pier was glaring at me.
I’m so sorry. I was lost in very old memories.
What were they about?
King Solomon’s ability to communicate with animals and birds.
My grandparents used to speak of an ancestor of mine who had a conversation with King Solomon. The snakes laugh about some woman who had a talk with one of their ancestors. I always wondered about the benefit of a single human being smart enough to communicate with us. (She was primping her feathers the entire time she was talking to me.) Did you happen to bring any bird seed for me?
No, I didn’t but I am going to pray for you in a little more than a week. (I explained all about Rosh Hashana and praying for all of Creation.)
You won’t bring me food but you pray for me as if you are responsible for me! Do you even know what I want? …what I need? Send King Solomon; at least he knew how to listen!
I will know how to listen and how to be like a king on Rosh Hashana!
She flew away before I could explain.