The Birds of Vatican

Learning from the birds, or where is a secret door to let the magic in

Olenka Geyyer
4 min readJan 17, 2021

I am watching a movie on the plane. My finger slipped and clicked the screen by accident, and the random film started to play. In five minutes or so, I understand that this is the movie “Training Day’’. I saw it many years ago when my English was poor, and I could not understand most of the dialogue. Everything seems clear now. I hear all the words without making an effort, not even looking at the screen most of the time. Suddenly, one line grabs me on a deeper level. The tall guy in a black leather jacket, who is clearly the boss, showcasing a bold metal chain with a big cross around his wide neck, reads a paper in a coffee shop. He sips his coffee, his snowy-white teeth spark in a broad handsome smile, his eyes piercing a younger guy across the table.

“Tell me the story,” The boss commands.

“Umm. Amm…” The young man looks sideways, his body is moving like he wants to leave the table and disappear, but he is pinned to the chair.

“Do not tell me your story. Tell me the story.” He smiles and puts the paper down, points his finger to the newspaper, and says with a rising force, “Ninety percent of it is bullshit. I know! But I read it for entertainment. So, if I stop reading it, now you gotta entertain me. Tell me THE story.”

I pause the movie. I feel like I do not need the entertainment right now. The movie catches attention strongly, the acting is superb, but I do not crave any entertainment. I crave silence. At this moment, the smallest things do so much to amaze me that I do not need big-bang special effects to feel the powerful energy. I feel like someone who was fasting for a few days and then allowed herself the first spoon of liquidy mashed potato, and it tastes so rich like never before. All my senses are overconsumed with bold details and rich undertones. Slowly watering the first teaspoon of simple saltless puree in the mouth evokes emotions of a unique, delicious, expensive meal prepared by a celebrity chef.

This is how I feel coming back from Rome.

It’s late November. All last week when we were there the weather served us with grey, wet skies. Last evening we went to St. Peter Basilica in Vatican City. It was raining all day, but only a gentle mist was in the air around 5 PM. The square, usually full of people, was rather empty. The birds were the main actors at this showtime.

Hundreds of black birds were flying in shapes that kept transforming every second in some magic order. If you watched the opening ceremony of the Olympiad in Bejing, they did something similar with thousands of people dressed-up and moving together according to the choreography, so from a distance, the shapes of different colors expanded, submerged, transformed to mesmerize the viewers across the globe. The birds did something of that sort, and I could not figure out the reason for this mystical dance in the sky. Countless black birds in a cobalt blue sky are making fluid shapes like a painter with some crazy imagination making bold brushstrokes without even a second for a coffee break.

We came close to the Basilica, and there was a big group of white doves circling one particular building next to the Basilica dome. I cannot express the beauty of it in words, but it reminded me of “Starry Night”, a painting by Van Gogh, the circles of white birds were playing the stars. It seemed a magical starry night. Looking up, I breathe the air and feel the grace seeps through my veins. Am I imagining things? I point to the birds and ask my husband, what is it that he is seeing. He stops and seems to be mesmerized as well, as he could not answer but keeps his head up and watches in silence for several minutes.

Two days before that, we were on this square during the daytime. The little girl, our friend’s daughter, was watching the skies while she and I held hands. “I am so sad I cannot fly like a bird,” six years old Sasha said, and I replied, “You sure can. Let’s imagine and try to spread your wings.” I showed her how I would do the graceful wings movement with my hands and neck, Swan Lake style. Little Sasha immediately tried to mimic. Sparks of authentic charm overflowed, and her whole body was bouncing with the flying movements, jumping in a free fluid dance, her face shining with light and happiness.

I am sitting on a plane, and my mind brings me back to the starry night scene of yesterday. The same feeling seeps through my body again. I am so lucky to be able to feel it and bring it back home with me. Something inside me expands, and suddenly, there is more space to receive. There is no effort needed to let go. The feeling of grace is warm. No craving for entertainment. Thank you, Rome.

At the airport, I bought a bright red lipstick and put it on. It’s a small piece of Rome that I can touch on the outside.



Olenka Geyyer

Artist. Traveler. Storyteller. Mother. I create, feel, notice, and appreciate the world of ideas, joy, and magic.