I had a moving and transformative experience today. At around 10:00 am this morning I entered the gates of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, better known as Angola Prison to those of us who live here---and I was forever changed from that moment on. As an invited VIP guest of the Kairos Prison Ministry of Louisiana, I got to see some places first hand that many outsiders never grace. I walked death row and Camp 7, which is a lock down facility housing the "worst of the worst" inmates inside the prison. I looked into the eyes of men - death row inmates and "lifers"- who because they have committed the most heinous crimes known to mankind, will never leave those prison grounds. I got to see how these men live, work, worship, and die. I say die because besides seeing the grave sites and places where executions take place, a lifer had passed away and there was a funeral happening while we were there. Funerals are very moving events inside the gates of Angola Prison and I'll write about how they take place in a future essay.
Now interestingly Kairos means " the appointed time in the purpose of God". And yes l do feel that my visit there today is aligned with some higher purpose. The take away from that experience will be with me for some time. I do not know how the events of this day will shape my future -- I just know that somehow in a very powerful and provocative way it has. And inasmuch as writing is the way I process my experiences and create my future - for writing is indeed generative - I'll be posting about my experience in a series of essays here.
So why title the essays "Pigeon Feathers"? Quite simply, I found a nest of pigeon feathers in a particular and moving place I visited today and I scooped them up and carried them home with me to keep as a reminder or touchstone. I'll say more about where I was (as it is significant) in a future essay. At any rate, once back at home I looked up the symbolism associated with pigeons. It seems pigeons are considered to be "stepped down" doves and noted for their hardiness to withstand the harsh realities of life. This of course is reminiscent to me of the inmates. And in Kate Chopin's book, The Awakening, a wonderful story set in Grand Isle, Louisiana she uses the symbolism of caged birds to represent Edna, the main character's entrapment. But pigeons are also also powerful messengers. And this reminds me of of the high desire of any writer. It's to be a messenger. So awakenings and the role of the messenger - those are for me.
To Be Continued...