I have a new favorite movie, Big Fish. I watched it last weekend and I have thought about it non-stop. To summarize, it was about a man who told wild tall tales, yet as you watched you soon realize that these tales had some truth to it.
I vowed that I would always speak the truth in my writings. I would not fabricate anything, yet the thought of being able to tell a story – where the truth is woven in – is very appealing. To write the words “I am so afraid” feels too harsh, even if it is the truth.
Last week’s post was about such fear and laying that truth down on the page left a babbling mess of many excuses of why I felt that way. It did not make for a good story and I decided not to post. This week, I decided to try my hand at spinning a tale. The only way to find out if I have a knack for story telling is give it a try. So let me tell you a story…
A story about Baby. She was the smallest of a family of six swallows, who lived in a Rock City bird house in a beautiful redbud tree. Her three brothers had enormous appetites. As the brothers grew bigger and bigger Baby was pushed to the back corner of the house. One day in a feeding frenzy the brothers ate all the food and completely forgot about her and she went all day without food. That evening when Mother found Baby crying from hunger, she reprimanded the boys. The brothers were ashamed and promised to always look out for the sister.
On a beautiful day in May, the biggest brother was hanging out at the opening of the bird house. He was giving a play by play of all the activity he was witnessing outside in the world. He was reporting on how different each bird flew and even made fun of a chickadee and it’s black cap. The siblings listened with fascination imagining the day when they would test their own wings. Big brother became very animated “Here comes one like us! Man, I wish you all could see how graceful our kind flies. It is so awesome.” “Is it Mother or Father?” Baby asked. Biggest brother leaned out of the opening for a better look. “No, I don’t think…” Suddenly, he disappeared from the opening.
For a moment they all stared in shock at the vacant space their brother had occupied, then the three started squawking and wailing. The noise carried on the wind to their parents who rushed home. Once there, they found only three chicks instead of four. Father frantically looked outside on the ground and mother tried to soothe her traumatized babies.
Father appeared in the opening, shaking his head, he could not find Biggest Brother anywhere in the garden below. “A hawk or a falcon must have snatched him up while he was on the ground”. Baby peeked out from under her mother’s wing to ask, “What is a hawk? Or a falcon?” Father answered. “Birds of prey, they feed on smaller animals and birds” Father visibly shuttered at the thought and Baby snuggled deeper under her mother’s wing.
After a period of mourning, Father and Mother busied themselves with training the rest of their babies how to fly. Father had all three lined up on a branch giving instructions on what to do with wind change. Baby kept looking towards the sky watching for large birds. She could not concentrate on what Father was saying. It wasn’t long before her brothers were flying. She watched them as they learned to swoop and glide. She and her Father watched one brother swoop down and fly a few inches above the ground. “See how he flies like that?” Father gently informed Baby. “That is where the best bugs are found. Please Baby, you need to learn how to fly or how else will you survive?” Just then one of her brothers brought her a half a grasshopper. She gobbled it up “I am surviving” she said with her mouth full.
Baby convinced herself that she was unable to fly. She claimed that something was wrong with her wings. Her family took care of her all summer, bringing her food, water and allowing her to stay in the bird house. Desperate for her to learn how to fly, Father tried pushing her off the branch, but she dug her claws in and refused to let go. Mother tried to guilt her into flying, telling her she was becoming a burden to the family. Baby could not fight the fear of flying. When she tried, she could only picture herself falling to the ground and becoming someone’s dinner.
Summer soon turned to autumn and everybody was preparing for the flight south, where they would spend the winter. Mother and Father reluctantly left Baby in the care of kind neighbors, who promised to bring her food and water during the winter months. Baby thought she would go insane with boredom and loneliness as the winter dragged on. One sunny day she took a chance and ventured outside. The snowy landscape was beautiful and the sun felt warm on her face. She lost her footing on a icy branch and early fell to the ground. She flapped her wings enough to keep her balance. This is too dangerous she thought and retreated back inside for the rest of the winter.
When spring finally won its battle with winter and the redbud was in bloom, Baby decided it was safe enough to come out of her house. She was warming herself in the morning sun as a mockingbird flew to a branch above her. “Look who survived the winter,” he chided. “Are you going to fly this spring?” Baby shrugged and refused to open her eyes. “Then you are nothing but a sitting duck” He squawked and flew away. Baby had no idea what a duck was. She would ask her good friend, Blue Jay when he showed up with breakfast. She hoped it was soon because she was very hungry for a juicy bug.
As she waited, the garden became very still. “Where did everyone go?” she thought as a chill ran up her spine. Afraid, she turned to head towards her bird house. Blocking her way was a hawk. “What are you?” Baby asked in a quivering voice. The hawk cocked it’s head to one side. “I am your worse nightmare” he snorted and took a step closer. Instinct forced Baby to open her wings as she ran towards the end of the branch. She awkwardly flew towards the willow trees. She heard the hawk cursing behind her and when she looked back and saw Blue Jay swooping down pecking at the hawk’s head. But the hawk still had her in his sight and was getting ready to take flight. Fear pushed her to pump her wings and she flew into the branches of the willow tree. She flew in a zigzag pattern, twisting and turning just like her brothers did when they first learned how to fly. Once on the other side of the tree, she allowed herself to glance back. The hawk became temporarily tangled in the branches giving Baby enough time to make it to a spruce tree. The hawk followed her into the dense foliage and stood in front of her, the other birds scattered noisily leaving her alone with her fate.
She flattened herself against the trunk, closed her eyes and waited for her death. When nothing happened, she opened her eyes and to her amazement she saw her brothers standing in front of her. Relief flooded her body. “Come on Baby, help!” one yelled as he moved forward to peck the hawk. Baby fluttered her wings and flew to help her brothers. The three birds in the small space of the spruce proved to be too much for the hawk and he flew away.
The three siblings hugged and danced. Soon other birds came to see who was brave enough to stand up to a mighty hawk. The story spreads to other trees and soon the spruce tree was full of neighboring birds, including Blue Jay. He found his small friend that he tended to all winter and gave her a hug. “I am so proud of you! How did if feel to fly?” Baby looked up at her dear friend and at her brothers. “Terrifying” she claimed, “I never want to experience that again”. She sat on a branch and crossed her wings. Blue Jay joined her and put a protective wing around her. “You faced your greatest fear and you won. Why would you not take the lesson that you have gained and live your life victoriously? You flew Baby!”
In the distance she could see the purple flowered redbud tree and the bird house swaying gently in the breeze. She longed to return to it but fear prevented her. She leaned into Blue Jay’s embrace and asks, “Why would God take me away from my home? Why would he send a hawk to kill me?”
The wise old blue jay answered, “We have two choices Baby, we can live in fear or we can fear not living” he gently pulled Baby to stand upon the branch. “God did not send the hawk but he gave you the ability to fly and you trusted that ability when you had to. Why did you choose to fly?”
She shrugs her wings “I don’t know”.
“Yes you do my dear friend” Blue Jay stretched his wings for flight and just before he left the branch, he glanced over his shoulder and continued, “You chose to fly because you wanted to live.” Baby’s brothers were listening nearby. They glance at her saying nothing at all and they too take off in flight.
Baby watches them as they soared. Riding on the wind gracefully and confident in their ability to fly. Suddenly the longing to live won over her fear. Baby spread her wings and stepped off the branch.