Thursday, 17 April 2008

Christopher's Robin

The little robin circled the sky, dipping and wheeling about close to the ground, taking more risks than a little robin ought. Occasionally it would rest for a while, panting a little as it swayed in the breeze, and watch the other birds swoop and dive. The elegant swans as they flew past were impossible to ignore because their beauty was breathtaking. The eagles too with their graceful strength would draw the little robin's eye, until breath back, it would return to the sky.

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Christopher would watch the birds wistfully, wishing he knew how to fly; admiring their strength and grace but also their wildness. Occasionally at night he would dream of being in the sky with them. Of having the freedom to dip and plunge and soar. And while like everyone else, he noticed the swans with their long sleek necks and their lithe grace, it was the little robin that drew him most. Such a small bird, so ordinary compared to the swans and the eagles, and yet there was something about it that kept his attention. The swans only flew to get where they were going. And the eagles were predatory and focused - they flew alone. But the little robin was joyful and playful, sweet and small, and when it soared it was as beautiful as all the other birds.

But this particular little bird was not just any robin. Although it loved to fly like the other birds, it felt that surely their must be more to life than this. Than to fly and eat and sleep. And this troubled the little robin, because robins are not meant to think about that sort of thing. So it flew faster because it found that when it was soaring high and then diving towards the ground that it did not think about the things that little robins are not meant to think about.

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One day when little Christopher was watching, he saw the little robin flying and wheeling wildly and he could not look away. He was mesmerised by the way it darted back and forth and then as it climbed steadily into the sky where he could barely see it. Then, as he watched, he saw the robin dive - a beautiful elegant dive towards the ground. It was the highest and the fastest dive the little robin had ever attempted, and as the ground came careening closer and closer the little robin found it could not pull up in time and it crashed, hitting the ground with a tiny unheard thump.

Christopher sprang to his feet and ran towards the little bird, scooping it up in his hands and tremulously looked to see if it was ok. The little bird shivered a little, in fright and in pain, and snuggled into the warmth of his palm as he cupped it gently, not daring to even smooth the ruffled feathers. Its wing was at an odd angle but it seemed otherwise OK, and gradually with a hammering heart, Christopher began to breathe normally again. As carefully as he could he took it home, and made it a small warm bed to lie in as he watched the little bird and wondered what to do next.

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The little robin when it woke in its strange warm bed was afraid and tried to fly away but found that it could not. There was still so much pain in its wing, so it huddled into the softness and waited. Christopher brought the little bird water and helped it to drink. He brought food and helped the little bird to eat. And every morning when he woke up, Christopher would look first at the little nest that he had made, wondering sadly if the little bird had flown away because it was a wild bird and he knew he could not cage it.

Occasionally he would pick up the little robin and tell it his secrets. They were simple secrets, but he thrilled to be able to share them with the robin, who snuggled gently into his palm. And every day as the robin grew stronger he fought the urge to hold it more tightly and lived with the heavy fear that soon the robin would be strong enough to fly away on its own.

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The robin continued to strengthen, until some days it would hop a little and fly a little before returning to Christopher. Some days the flying hurt so much that it was grumpy when time came for Christopher to try to feed it, and it would peck at his fingers making him wince. But still Christopher did not complain, because with the little warm bird to tell his secrets to, he had found something special. A wild bird that was happy to curl up in his palm and who trusted him, even if it pecked him occasionally. And as the little robin grew stronger he grew bolder, stroking its small wings and smoothing the ruffled feathers.

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Eventually the day came when the robin could fly all day. It whirled in the sunshine while Christopher watched, and came back to nestle in his palm before racing off again. For so long Christopher had warmed and fed and looked after the little robin, and now he was reminded that it was still wild, and that he had to give it freedom as much as he wanted to take it back inside and shut it in. A lump built in his throat as he watched the little brown bird and thought about how beautiful and strong it was and how he could not keep it.

But as the little robin circled the sky and admired the other birds as they soared, it felt a little empty. It loved to fly, and yet, surely there was more than flying? It longed for the warmth of Christopher's palm, for the safety it felt in the warmth of the nest, where the little robin had never thought of silly questions like was there more? The other robins as they twittered in the trees called out to the little robin, and reminded it of how much fun it was to fly, but every night, the robin returned to Christopher.

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Gradually Christopher began to forget that the little robin was wild, and in the mornings as he cheerfully put out its food, he forgot his fear of the little robin flying away. And the little robin, as it preened in the sunshine, had nearly forgotten as well. It was a happy little robin, round and sleek and cheerful with the most beautiful song. It no longer envied the grace of the eagles nor the beauty of the swans, but was happy being a little robin with its own warm nest and it stopped flying. Why did it need to fly? Flying was pointless anyway. And Christopher was happy because he had the impossible - his own robin.

But little robins are meant to fly, they are born with wings, and no matter the softest bed, nor the choicest morsels of food nor the gentlest caress, their wings will not go away. And the little robin who had stopped flying knew that it had a hard choice to make. As it sat in the sunshine with Christopher in companionable silence it wondered whether little robins could ever stop flying.

3 comments:

Shel said...

The robin can not sit still as much as we can not stop holding on.

The robin needs to fly - it's what a robin does and is what a robin is built for. Whilst the robin can expand on what it does; it cannot contract into what it does not.

The robin will always have Christopher - only, instead of sitting closely by him; forever in his heart.

Melissa said...

Wow Jenn. Just wow.

Kim said...

What an amazing story Jenn.

That robin will never be completely happy while her wings are dormant, will she? So although the robin may be content to sit and not fly, will she ever feel totally fulfilled? Isn't it her destiny to fly?

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