There once was a beautiful green park. And in this park there was a path that wound through it, past all the tall trees and beautiful flower gardens. And just off that path was a fountain and in the middle of that fountain was a statue. Now this statue was a very large and very beautiful statue of a water nymph. She had beautifully chiseled long hair and graceful arms held out like she was stretching to hug the morning sun. From her mouth came a gentle stream of water falling into a small reflecting pool below. Her name was Petra and a very famous sculptor had lovingly carved her many years before and gave her as a gift to the city.
Everyone loved to gather around this fountain. Grandmothers would sit along the benches and read and relax. Mothers would bring their children to play tag around the circle of the fountain. Young lovers would hold hands and whisper to each other. Every day at least one person would stop and look at Petra and say, “This is the best place in the entire park. What a beautiful fountain.”
The air was always full of laughter and everyone was smiling. Petra loved being the reason they all came. She was proud to hold her arms out always as if to say, “Come here, children. Come and play.”
There was only one problem. Her beautiful, pale gray arms were the perfect landing spots for pigeons. Every day, soon after the sun rose, a pigeon would land on her outstretched hand. And then another and another until her arms were quite filled all the way up with pigeons. And when those were full they began to perch on her head.
One pigeon cooing is not altogether terrible, but ten or fifteen gets to be quite a cacophony. All day Petra heard them cooing and calling back and forth to each other, right by her ears. And she couldn’t cover her ears because her elegant and slender arms were made of stone and could not bend. She couldn’t wave the pigeons away because her stately shoulders were made of stone and would not flex.
Even all that perching and cooing would have been tolerable if it hadn’t been for the mess those birds left behind all over her arms and head. White streaks and spots all over. “Oh, my beautiful gray arms,” wept Petra. “They are all striped and splotchy now. I feel certain the sculptor who made me would be horrified to see me looking this way. I am a work of art and they are ruining me! Oh, soon nobody will want to come spend their day at the park near me. I will just be an awful mess!”
But one day, Petra realized she could fight back against the birds. One morning, a pigeon flew by and its wing brushed her nose and made her sneeze! Well that sneeze shot the trickle of water coming from her mouth straight out! It hit the pigeon square in the beak and it flew off, determined to never return to the cursed fountain again.
Petra had never thought to use her water fountain to shoo away the birds and her heart skipped a beat at the though. “Oh, once again I shall be beautiful and stately, just as the sculptor intended me to be.”
So one by one that day, Petra squirted each pigeon that dared to land on her graceful arms. It was a lot of work, because pigeons are not naturally intelligent creatures and many of them had to be reminded several times what would happen if they came back to their favorite landing place, but Petra was determined to be rid of the birds once and for all.
For a week Petra fought the battle of the pigeons, but by the end of the second week, not a bird dared to touch down anywhere near her. So focused had Petra become on ridding herself of the flying nuisances that she would even squirt them for landing on the edge of her fountain or on the sidewalk nearby.
“Aaahh,” Petra said at the end of her first day with absolute zero pigeons. “This is how I was meant to live. The sculptor would be very proud to see me now.”
But Petra’s happiness was short-lived. Only a few weeks after scaring away all the pigeons Petra looked around at the park benches surrounding her fountain and noticed that none of the old grandmas were sitting there anymore. For you see, the grandmothers had always come to feed the pigeons and once the pigeons left, they found another place to sit and relax and empty their purses of bread crumbs and bird seed.
Petra was a little sad, but she simply sighed and said, “Oh well. At least the children will still come and see me.”
But after a few weeks, the children no longer ran around her fountain laughing and playing and throwing in shiny pennies and wishes. For you see, the mothers and children came to visit the grandmas who would open up their purses full of bread crumbs and bird seed, but also full of little candies and chocolates.
Petra was quite sad now, but she simply sighed and said, “Oh well. At least the young lovers will still sit on the park benches and admire my beauty as they hold hands and whisper.”
But a few weeks later, the young couples no longer sat on her benches to hold hands and whisper. For you see, they’d always been whispering about a future with children and growing old together, and it was always food for their imaginations to watch the cycle of life before their eyes and dream about it together.
Now Petra was really, very, very sad. She wanted to cry great sobs but because she was made of stone all she could do was let a little more water pour down from her mouth. “Oh, if only I had let those pigeons stay,” she said. “I guess they were a small price to pay for all the joy the brought. And what good are my lovely, slender arms, even if they are clean now, without children and grandmothers, and young lovers to see them?”
Just then, a small pigeon flew by and Petra stopped her stream of water long enough to let out a small bird whistle. She was in luck, because this bird was new in town and did not know about Petra’s reputation for squirting loud and dirty birds who dared to land on her. So the small pigeon decided to stop and rest on one of the graceful gray arms for a bit.
Petra stayed very still.
Soon, a flock of pigeons flew by and saw a bird on Petra’s arm. They wondered how this could be and flew down to get a closer look. When Petra saw them coming closer she once again stopped the water coming from her mouth as a sign of goodwill and to show that she promised never to squirt them again. The pigeons all landed on her arms and head because really, they had missed their favorite perch. The cooed together and left many a white streak and splotch before flying to their nests for the night.
But in the morning, they were back. And the next day and the next day. And soon, Petra saw an old grandma sit down on the park bench, open her purse and begin to feed the birds. “Yes,” thought Petra. “Yes, soon everyone will be back.”
And soon, they were. The children, the mothers, the grandmas and grandpa, the young lovers. All sitting and smiling or running and laughing. “This is the most wonderful spot in the park,” she once again heard them say. “What a beautiful fountain.”
And Petra learned to love the pigeons, no matter how loud or dirty they were. Because even though they made her less than the perfectly, beautiful statue she’d started out as, she became much more when they were around. She became a centerpoint for love and life. And that’s really much better than being perfect and beautiful, don’t you think?