There were trees of every size and color, filled with sprouts of new growth and tiny flowers not yet opened. Still none of them seemed right. Some might be adequate; they were near fresh water, others close to food, but those already held nests full of eggs or hatchlings in their boughs. I needed the perfect spot to nest with my new bride, Sparkle. I’d agonized over the decision too long. What if I was too late?
Watching her bathe in a puddle this morning, I saw how heavy she’d grown with the eggs she carries. We needed a nest soon – very soon, a safe home where our family could thrive. Sparkle put her trust in me and I wouldn’t let her down.
I circled again in desperation, but knew that nothing had changed. There was no choice. I would have to seek out the Wisdom Willow. I trembled at the idea, my feathers quivering, but knew that keeping Sparkle and the babies sheltered from wind, and concealed from predators was more important than my qualms.
Will the tree speak to me? I’ve heard she doesn’t care for birds. She lived in a remote, quite corner of the woods. It was rumored that she befriended the squirrels and the thought of a huge squirrel charging almost made me turn back, but I tried to remember what was needed of me.
What else did they say? I’d need to approach from the ground. She didn’t tolerate anyone in her branches. Speak clearly in a low voice and avoid chirping or singing. The tree was said to be temperamental. I could do everything right and still be sent away. I was almost there. It was too late to worry now. Just get it over with.
I fought back my fear of the forest floor, forcing myself to land a short distance from the majestic tree. I hopped cautiously, cringing at each rustle of the leaves, trying to watch every direction at once. I was so exposed. It was dim beneath the trees, and I couldn’t see well. Every breeze and stir made me want to flap away as fast as I could, but soon I was before the mighty willow. Her soaring trunk was very intimidating from my low position. Her branches stretched out, and seemed to hold the rest of the forest away. No other trees dared to let their branches intertwine with hers. I felt foolish for approaching. She would shun me for wasting her time. Maybe I should turn back…
“Windsong, why do you seek me?” The voice was not loud, but filled the forest with authority. I shouldn’t have been surprised that she knew my name, but I was.
I spread my wings, bowing to the Wisdom Willow hoping she couldn’t tell I was shaking.
“Great One, I seek your guidance.” The words came out in a high squeak and I cringed at the sound. “Where shall I nest my family that they may thrive?” That wasn’t what I had meant to say, but my well-prepared speech would not come to my beak.
“You are late in the season to be seeking a nest only now,” she said.
The others were right. I was foolish to come. To her I was only another stupid bird. “Yes,” I managed to chirp, taking a hop backward, ready to fly if I should need. A cold breeze blew through her delicate branches making them float all around me. Was that a sign of anger?
“It has been ages since a bird sought my counsel, and this corner of the woods has been longing for songs,” said the Willow in a creaking, ancient voice. “Little One, you shall build your home in my branches. I’ve missed the joy of children these many years.”
I released a breath I didn’t know I was holding, and almost toppled over in surprise. Had I heard correctly? The willow saw my confusion and a wispy limb scooped me up.
“Do not fear me. I know what some say about me, and it doesn’t matter. You trust your own mind and heart over silly gossip, or you would not be here now. You shall be my eyes and ears throughout the woods. I am old. A young, courageous bird would be a welcome helper.”
The tension inside of me faded so quickly, I thought my feathers might fall out. Fluffing myself with pride I said, “Thank you… I am honored.”
Warm rays of sunlight filtered through her leaves, catching juicy insects and glittering motes of dust in their beams. How had I never noticed the beauty of this region of the forest before?