The Bird and the Tree

“Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation.”- Rumi

Once upon a time there was a sturdy tree with sturdy branches. Birds tried to land on the tree; he looked so inviting after all. But each time a bird tried to land, the tree said “No, not yet! I am still growing.”

And the birds said, “But your branches look so solid and so firm. And your roots go deep. and you seem like a good place for me to build a nest. ”

And the tree said, “No, not yet! I am still growing.”

So the birds left and found other birds and other trees to call home.

One day, a bird flitted about the tree, curious. “There are no nests here,” she said. “May I sit here a bit?” She asked.

“No, not yet!” Said the tree. “I am still growing – ”

“No not to nest,” she said quickly. “But just to…rest a bit.”

The tree was silent and then said, “Ok. maybe. maybe just a bit because it would be nice to just…talk. But – but my branches are still growing and you cannot trust they will hold. But I will try my best”

The bird laughed. “Silly Tree! I’m a bird! If it breaks, I’ll find another branch, or fly far away, I won’t be hurt!”

The tree relaxed a bit and the bird landed, full of grace on a branch. And over the next few weeks, they talked and laughed, and learned and sometimes the bird felt very very happy – almost too happy, if you know what I mean – and the tree was content too, but could feel the weight of the little bird on his branch at night sometimes, when she was asleep, and when he couldn’t sleep.

One day, he knew, just before it happened. “I don’t think I can – ” He said, as the branch snapped. But he was not too worried because the bird knew this might happen. The bird knew how to fly. He knew she would be ok. “I can’t – ” he started and the branch broke, right in the middle of a very clever joke or piece of poetry the bird was sharing. She was smiling when she tumbled out of the branch, beak first.

It was like she’d forgotten how to fly, and when she landed, her wing snapped.

The bird looked up at the tree, dazed and confused.

The tree was stunned, horrified even. “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry” the tree said.

“I fell” the bird said, resting against a root. It shivered underneath her, feeling the slice of pain tremble through her little bird body. “I… fell. I didn’t… think that would happen.”

She was quiet and then she said to the tree “Oh. You… broke.”

The tree did not want the bird to leave. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry but there are other branches,” The tree said. “There are other branches and I know this branch broke but the other ones are stronger, so long as you don’t rest too long. So long as you… as you fly away for a bit and… and come back. I’ve been growing. We have such lovely conversations you know, the conversations are the best part.”

So the little bird picked herself up, hopped on her feet, and gingerly pressed her beak to the bark in a soft peck of a kiss. “Ok, ” she said, but her voice didn’t sound the same. “Ok, I’ll try.” And with great effort she started to climb the tree. The tree helped where he could, moving a branch slightly, moving bark and small leaves around so she could climb to another branch.

The bird clung to the tree’s body for a little bit, staring at a new branch ahead of her. “It’s ok,” said the tree quietly. “You can take a step.”

And she walked, hesitantly onto the branch, quietly. Her feet were less sure than before. She found she didn’t want to look down. Her shoulder hurt.

The tree was mostly quiet. And so was the bird. No more lively conversations happened as often. But they still talked, and so the tree was glad that the bird did not leave. But the bird felt afraid at night. What if this branch snapped too? She flitted away sometimes with her broken wing, hopped back to the tree’s body, and sometimes moved away.

One day the little bird started to cry. “What’s wrong?” The tree asked, very distressed.

“I don’t know,” the bird said. “I thought I wanted to rest. But maybe I want a home. Or maybe I want to still rest. I’m scared this branch will break. We don’t even talk very much anymore. “

“You can rest! You can always rest here,” the tree said, and agitation crept into his voice too. “Just, not… not make a home – you can fly away a bit, and come back a bit so that you’re not scared of the branch breaking… it won’t break if you do that. And… and I’m ok with these conversations. You can always come to me when you need me and I…I want to be able to come to you when I need you too.”

“But you don’t need me,” The bird said softly through her tears. ” You can always come to me, but you have never needed to, and you probably never will. You don’t need me, and I don’t know that you won’t break again,” the bird said. “But, “she said, hiccuping. “I know you care about me and I care about you too. So I will try to… to leave and come back.”

“Are we good?” The tree asked, softly.

“We are something,” the bird said.

Her wing was not healing quickly.

Two weeks passed.

One day the tree awoke and found that the little bird was not there. He knew she wasn’t just flitting about because she had left him a small note, pinned to his body.

This is what she had written: I have to leave. Even with my broken wing, I have to leave. I have to leave because even though I know how to fly I need a branch I can trust to rest, or to stay. I think I want a home now. Maybe. You weren’t a home. Maybe I wanted that. Maybe I want that now, after you. Anyway, I can’t keep flying and coming back…not right now. I need a comfortable place to heal my wing before I can visit, or feel like resting on your branches again. Maybe I will be back. And maybe I won’t be able to see you again. Don’t be scared that you broke. You will grow stronger too, Tree. You will be able to hold other birds better too. And you will be a good home for another bird, or a resting place. I know you will be. I hope you will be. Tree, I’m sorry if I ever hurt you. 

I can understand your point of view, said the tree, leaves rustling in the wind in cautious apology, and with care, hoping the bird could hear him: You do you. I hope your wing heals. Sorry for any stuff I put you through. Best of luck, little bird.

The bird heard and smiled peacefully, her heart content. I am glad to have known you at all, she chirped, miles away. The wind took her tranquil song across many miles and the tree was calm, hearing the distant echo of her music against his leaves.

Some friendships can only exist in this silent, private space where goodbye and always here keep company.

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