There once was a man who lived his long days quietly and in peace. But he was alone. The paths of life had taken from him all he had known and loved. He could not change this, and so he went on with his life. Just living.
As is usually the case with someone who knows great sadness, his world looked grey and flat. His little home was just a grey little shack with no extravagant features or extra rooms. It simply functioned as a place to live. Nothing more.
Each day, his day started the same: he awoke, washed his face, ate a simple meal, and went out to the forest to find wood that he could trim down and split into firewood. While out in the forest alone, he had only his loneliness to keep him company. When he had enough wood to fill his cart, he would return to his shack. There he would trim, split, and stack the wood to sell to his neighbors. He finished his day with another simple meal, washed himself, and went to sleep.
Every day alike…endless days filled with labor and remembrance of loss. It hardly seemed worth living. But he carried on, mostly because he knew no other way.
But one day, something changed.
There had been a great storm the night before, and many trees were knocked down by the high winds. He had gone out into the forest as usual and had nearly filled his cart with wood when he noticed a rustling in the bushes. The sound wasn’t large, so he investigated. He found a small ragged grey bird. She seemed to be unable to fly or run, as she made no effort to escape when he reached out to scoop her up. He set the grey bird down in a clear area, hoping that maybe she would try to fly away. But she just fell over, struggling to keep her head up.
He scooped up the little grey bird again and tucked her into his chest pocket. Perhaps he could care for her and bring her back to health. When he arrived home, he arranged an old blanket in a box and set her inside. He put a bit of water nearby and found some seeds for her. Then he went about his routine as usual.
The next day, he checked on her before leaving for the forest. She was still looking pretty ragged, but her eyes were alert. He went on about his day…but he found himself thinking about her and wondered whether she would be there when he returned home.
He was happy to find that she was, and was even sitting up a little better. She had eaten a bit of the seed. He was very encouraged and sat with her a few minutes before carrying on with his routine. Occasionally, he would peek in on her. Just to be sure she was okay, of course.
Days passed, and each day she seemed a bit stronger. She would perch on the side of the box, but would never leave it. Small efforts seemed to tire her quite quickly, but still, there was improvement. Her feathers became more glossy and smooth.
One day, he thought to build her a more suitable dwelling. He took a knife and trimmed several small branches to arrange as a roof over the box. This seemed to please the little grey bird, and she hopped around and picked at the sticks and perfected their arrangement.
Each day, his thoughts turned more and more to the little grey bird, and he began to forget his losses. He began to think of more items that he could make to give the little bird a place to perch on and exercise her wings. He wanted to encourage her healing and see her become strong again. So he built a tree of small branches, making sure that there were strong branches for her to rest on. This made the little grey bird quite happy, and she gradually worked her way to the top branches. Her wings seemed to be filling out with long graceful feathers, and she was becoming much stronger and more active. She even began to sing a beautiful song each time he arrived home from the forest.
He began to realize that perhaps he should let her go back to the wild…but he was very attached to her. His heart had grown very fond of her beauty and her song. He didn’t know if he could let her go. He thought that he would build her a fancy home and decorate it with flowers. That should make her happy! So he did, but this home had a door on it.
He placed her inside and let her explore. She hopped around inside and arranged small bits of the new house to her liking. She seemed very happy, and this made him happy. He carefully closed the door, and went about going to bed.
The next morning, however, she was tucked back in a far corner of her house and wouldn’t come forward when he offered her some seed. He thought this was a bit odd, but went on with his day. When he returned home, she didn’t sing for him. When he went to check on her, she had barely moved from her corner, and he became very concerned. He brought her out and put her in her old box where she had more freedom. Slowly, she began to regain her former vibrancy and even sang a short song.
He realized that he could no longer keep her. This made him sad, but also made him happy that she was also ready to be on her own. He knew he would miss her, but he couldn’t keep her caged and see her become so sad.
He scooped her up, much like on the first day he saw her, and held her close to his chest. He walked outside and held her in his hands, then gently tossed her up into the air and set her free. With a rapid flutter of wings, she caught the air and rose up on graceful wings, spiraling up out of sight.
He watched her until he could no longer see her, his heart heavy with her absence. He eventually turned to go back inside and return to his routine. But as he turned, he heard a rustle of feathers, and the little grey bird swooped in front of him. Utterly shocked, he held his hands out, and she came to rest on his palms.
He pulled her to his chest and softly whispered, “My little bird.”