She is young, so she doesn't want to leave yet. But I am always afraid for her, afraid the cats might somehow get her, afraid she might be lost, afraid she misses her family too much, just afraid.
I let my birds go last weekend. I've had a tribe of them for the past 15-16 years, but due to really boring, tiresome reasons that only sound like bad excuses, I've had to make this decision.
I didn't want to abandon them; I wanted to make sure that they'd know where to get food from, even after they've left my house. I had visions of training them gently to get used to the outdoors, since they are born in captivity. I prepared a space for them in my postage stamp of a back yard, arranged some bird feeders just beyond the open cage door, hung an old wind chime that scares the cats on the open cage door, all in said preparation.
But woman supposes and the Universe just laughs.
I stumbled on a step and the poor things, alarmed, just flew out in a panic. I could see them circling the roofs and trees for a couple of hours after, and called out to them in vain. Either they couldn't hear, or they couldn't recognize their cage from above; whatever the reason, they didn't return.
However, what worries me the most is that all of them did not leave: a young parakeet, who looks like she might be ready with an egg, continues to live in the cage, the open door notwithstanding.
For the first day, she kept calling out, even responding when I talked to her. But for a whole day now, she has been just quiet. She shuffles around when I call her, but doesn't speak anymore.
The cage door is still open and the wind chime seems to be working.
This makes me wonder about the nature of freedom. Everybody pays so much lip service to it, but who really understands the cost, the heavy, heavy burden that inevitably comes with it?
Imagine the terror of an open sky on untried wings; the monstrous confusing fear emerging from a forgotten instinct at seeing a dark, wide wingspan; the desperation at seeing the sun set among unfamiliar wilderness, hunger gnawing at the innards; the need to find home; the inability to do so.
I wish I could articulate to my daughter the wisdom of the little parakeet who chooses to stay, even at the cost of her song. Freedom seems like a wonderful dream come true and it is natural to want to choose. However, once one leaves the safety of confinement, it is impossible to find the way back, even when the way beckons.
Ultimately, freedom devours the unprepared, who find horrors beyond their darkest nightmares coming true, instead of the endless shimmering blue sky.
And me? I am left with this huge hole in the centre of my being, where my birds used to live. I am the impoverished, helpless cage-master who understands their terror and confusion but is unable to reach them, the open cage door notwithstanding:
The air gets in the way, and no matter how much of it I gulp it down, it seems endless, like the unforgiving sky.