The Crow who sits on the back fence is very old, and possibly very wise. In the morning when I smoke my cigarette I see him sunning himself and preening his feathers. Once, the Crow told me a story, and this is what he said.
I knew a Chickadee, who hatched from his shell, came out of his tree, and flew away. One day he flew up to a temple, where a young monk fed him seeds. He stayed for many turnings of the moon, tamed by the monk to sit upon the windowsill and sing his song.
Autumn came, and the Chickadee thought to himself, “I should find the other chickadees and flock together with them.” But the monk fed him seeds, and the temple was warm and dry. The chickadee took to sleeping in a knothole in the rafters of the monk’s room, and after a while his wings were weak and forgot how to fly. The monk still fed him seeds, but the Chickadee grew sad and no longer sang his song.
One day a March wind blew through the windows of the temple, and the Chickadee stirred in his knothole. Out the window of the monk’s room, he saw another chickadee flying by, and soon the other chickadee came and sat on the sill of the window. He sang out to the Chickadee, “Why do you stay in this room? You should fly and sing.”
The Chickadee said to this other bird, “The monk feeds me seeds, and I have forgotten how to fly and sing.” But in his heart, the Chickadee knew that he missed soaring on the wind and singing his song in the sun.
The new bird said, “Come away and fly and sing.” But the Chickadee could not be moved from his knothole. So the new bird flew away, though he was sad to see the Chickadee still and silent in the temple.
The Chickadee knew that he should fly away from the temple, but his heart was heavy with fear. What if he could not make his wings fly? What if he could not remember his song?
When spring finally came, the Chickadee could no longer stay in the temple. He flew tentatively, down to the windowsill. He looked out over the trees and meadows, wondering where his friend the other chickadee had gone. And at last, he took wing and flew out from the temple.
At once he felt the exhilaration of flight, the wind bearing him up over the land. But he flew and flew and looked for his friend, and did not find him. When night came, he found a tree to roost in. When the morning sun warmed his feathers, he flew and looked for the other chickadee.
One day, flying above the trees, he saw his friend the chickadee in the distance, flying and swooping with another bird. They danced on the wind. The Chickadee was sad, because his friend had found another bird to fly and sing with. But the Chickadee watched them from afar, and his heart was glad for their dancing on the wind.
The next morning, when the sun warmed his feathers, the Chickadee sang.