The Spiritual Life of the Peacock

Source: Wall Street Journal

By Nic Rowan

St. Anthony described the birds as purified by tribulation, then adorned with virtue.

On a summer afternoon a few years ago, Lisa Schubert was sitting in her office at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, an Episcopal church on the Upper West Side. Through her open second-floor window she overheard a conversation between two visitors, who were studying featherless peacocks. They seemed more concerned with the peacocks’ appearance than curious about their presence on church grounds.

“What happened to their tails?” Ms. Schubert recalls a man asking.

“They chopped them off,” a woman replied.

“I was so horrified,” Ms. Schubert says. “I couldn’t believe it. I went to the window and I screamed, ‘We do not chop them off!’ ” The visiting woman relented. It’s a common mistake, because few know that peacocks live on a cycle: They lose their tail feathers every summer and begin regaining them in the days before Christmas. By early spring, often around Easter, their full-grown feathers fan into a colorful plumage.

St. John the Divine has three of the regal birds, who freely roam the church property. When they get adventurous, Jim, Harry and Phil sometimes end up on nearby Amsterdam Avenue. James Patterson, a church employee who helps care for the birds, says he’s always amazed at their photogenic qualities.

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