Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chapter Thirty-Two: Hawksong

Chapter Thirty-Two: Hawksong 

We must hide this candle under a bushel, Chylus said.

The morning after they brought Jarrod back from the canyon, they hurried him away from his nest before the sun rose, before the songs in his throat overflowed and brought sunshine and happiness to the world. 

There are many who say magpies do not sing. 

But every bird sings. Not all may have the voices of meadowlarks or whippoorwills, but all birds sing.

And it is not mimickry, like the crows learning to quack like ducks. The songs are in the brain and in the heart and in the voice and on the air. Whether a magpie graduates beyond croaking or screeching when humans are near, the song is there. 

Jarrod knew it.

Jarrod felt it bubbling in him and knew if he did not sing, he would burst.

So the crows carried him far from home, far from where the joyful song of a magpie whose burden at long last was lifted could be enjoyed by his fellow beasts, wasted on those who would hear the sounds and cry for joy but not know why the tears came nor why the song was sung.

Jarrod agreed. 

For now, he said, it is valuable to us that I continue to appear miserable. Those who are miserable are indeed invisible in this world. Those whose joy bursts are the object of awe and scorn on this farm. At least in the eyes of the marmots. 

But that morning, far from the farm, joy. 

Jarrod and Chylus and Magda soared on a thermal rising from the black of the highway asphalt. The sun shone through the low clouds like a grey-haired dandelion struck by lightning and lit the birds’ black wings with iridescence. Jarrod, thin as a whisper, shouted as the magpie shouts, pumping wings, soaring, soaring. Chylus and Magda swam through the heavy morning air to keep up with the bird bursting light from the tip of every feather. 

Oh, he screamed. I could fly ‘round the world. I could fly to the moon and the stars. Oh, today of days, I could fly! He pumped his wings and flew higher still, his exuberance startling a lone hawk who had been watching the trio, thinking of breakfast. Jarrod saw the bird and sped towards it, wings pumping, pumping. 

Magda cast a worried eye at Chylus, who shrugged – not an easy feat for a bird in flight. He pumped his wings as did Magda, hoping to keep up. 

The hawk smiled as Jarrod approached. Good morning, brother of the morning, it said, offering the traditional greeting of one hawk to another. I see in your eyes a burden lifted, and my hunger abates. ‘Tis a fair morning for flying high. 

God, Jarrod said. God, today, you let me fly with the hawks. Me, who for so long, flew with the toads. 

Yes, Jarrod said, breathlessly. 

It is rare to see lowlanders as yourself, flying so high, the hawk said. But you have reason, and that is reason enough to fly unmolested. 

Yes, Jarrod said. I have reason. 

The hawk and the magpie flew higher until, arching his wings, the hawk darted over the lake where the air cooled. Jarrod followed and soon the two spiraled down towards the water, dropping into an invisible hole of cooler air. 

Oh, Magda puffed. He flies like a star. 

Yes, Chylus answered. And we his keepers, stars as well. 

They laughed as they followed the hawk and the magpie, descending toward the lake, calling to each other, laughing, singing. 

The hawk sang, sharp notes like knives shining in warm sunlight. The magpie sang, water bubbling over smooth stream stones caressed by the moon. A rare thing, the hawk said, to fly with such a companion. I do not know what burden you have left behind, but you no longer have its chains about you. 

No, Jarrod said. I do not. 

If we all flew with such exuberance, the skies would be dark and the air a cacophony of song, the hawk said. Alas, such is the world, nearly silent, baleful. You mind, he said. Fly high as you like in these parts, and I’ll see to it no hawk causes you harm. I have marked you with my eyes, and as I am known as a teller of tales among my own, they will recognize you from afar, and leave you unmolested. The world needs joy much more than it needs bellies full in the morning. And there are plenty around here to catch. 

Chylus heard the conversation and wheeled, Magda close at wing. 

This talk of full bellies makes me nervous, he said as they flew over the lake, he above, she below, to protect her from any predators. 

Now you know what the voles feel like, Magda said. 

Yes, yes, Chylus muttered. They flew to a willow hanging over the lake and perched, watching Jarrod and the hawk flying to and fro over the lake. The hawk dove to the water, speared a fish. He and the magpies settled on a shoreside rock to feast. 

I would like to hear your story, the hawk said, between beakfuls of fish.

I would like to tell it, Jarrod replied.

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