|The Dream of a Bird
Author: Asana PM
Observations on a bird that I watched for an assignment. Inspired by Virginia Woolf's "The Death of the Moth".Rated: Fiction K - English - Words: 864 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 09-01-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3055044
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The Dream of a Bird
I know little or nothing about birds. Like everyone, I can distinguish an ostrich from a parrot, but that is where my knowledge ends. My lack of knowledge stems from no innate dislike for the animals, merely absence of the fervor possessed by lonely old men and zoologists. And so the little brown bird in the underbrush, short beaked and speckled with tan and white, was nothing more than a little brown bird to me.
Some people think of the countryside as a place of silence and tranquility. Not so. The only difference between a wood and a city is that beneath the boughs of the trees it is animals, not humans, who conduct their business. The ant scuttles across a branch, in a hurry to gather groceries. The flies buzz gratingly on their ways to and from office and home. The squirrels scurry industriously around leaf-littered construction sites. Even in the college's manicured microcosm there is no peace. But amid all that the bird—a finch, perhaps?—calmly strode into the heart of the underbrush and stood motionless, save for the occasional turn of his head.
That philosophical little fellow was like no other bird I had seen. He did not hop, twitter, twitch, fly, or scratch around for insects. He simply stood, a solitary stillness in the diminutive wood surrounding the grafted tree. The thoughtful tilt of his head gave him a certain strange dignity. I crouched for a better view, the squeak of my black patent leather shoes giving away my location. Though scarcely two meters ahead of me, the bird paid me no notice and continued his silent vigil with his back to my curious face. What was he doing there? In the natural cage of leaves and branches he could not fly away. He showed no interest in the insects crawling across the moist ground, instead turning beady black eyes skywards. What was he thinking? Was he waiting for someone? A slighted lover, perhaps? Ridiculous as I knew it was, my mind flew to weave a tale of romance and intrigue centering on the tiny feathered breast. A sudden ache in my calves and the whispery touch of ants crawling across my feet called me back to myself. I stood, though I remained bent like a hunch-backed crone to maintain my view.
I always thought of birds as spastic, frantic creatures. Always on the move, they eat, mate, and die in an endless caucus race for survival. For some the race does not even end for sleep—many do so while flying. Knowing this, it never occurred to me that a bird would have the time to daydream like the one in the brush. Perhaps my anthropomorphism went too far—humans are as far as we know the only animals conscious of their own existence-but crouched spying on that little bird I found it difficult to believe that I was his intellectual superior. When was the last time I had been so peaceful and content? Constantly drowning in work and worry, I usually acted far more like a splenetic "bird-brain" than he. Even then, my watching him was nothing more than a task to be completed so that I could write an essay. And the essay was a task to be completed so that I could be given more tasks the following day. It was I who was hopping and twitching, scratching furrows in the earth looking for something special. It was I who, for all my "free will", was trapped in an endless caucus race for whatever it was I wanted.
The insects seemed to think I was permanent fixture when I stood too still, so to avoid their tickling legs I stood and picked my way back down the path to the tree. From that perspective I could still see my bird if I looked hard enough, but the new angle brought no new insight. The bird was standing as motionless as before, looking at the dreams that were written in the overcast sky. He did not once look at me, and after standing there for a while his inattention began to irk me. Birds were supposed to be afraid of humans, not cool and composed in their presence. A sudden devilish urge to frighten him into flight gripped me, but I suppressed it. I feared that he would ignore me even if I shouted or threw a pebble into the brush close to him and I would look a fool. So, slightly annoyed, I returned to the winding asphalt path. I did not stay for long, however. Curiosity still nibbled at the corners of my mind, and within minutes I was back in the brush. But my little bird was not there. I searched for him agitatedly, scouring the ground with my eyes for the soft silent form like a sparrow searching for a worm, to no avail. I could only imagine that his dream was over, or that he had had someplace to be and put it away for a later date. That was something we had in common. My thirty minutes were over too.