The Never-Before-Seen-Bird

The following is a real-life story that is perfect for our times. It is an excerpt from, The Disobedience of the Daughter of the Sun: A Mayan Tale of Ecstasy, Time, and Finding One’s True Form, by artist and writer, Martín Prechtel.

I am sharing it with you here because it is the quickest way I could think of to place it into your care. Indulge yourself. And then if you are hungry for more, check out Martín Prechtel’s other books, all accompanied by original artwork.

Please respect all copyrighted work, without exception.

Upon the Pacific Northwest coast of North America, amongst the thickly treed tops of a rocky jumble of islands poking past the mists and loons, there was a man I’d known who could never smile.

He’d killed too much back in a Southeast Asian war. Only a twenty-year-old boy then, like a hand-fed trained falcon, he was sent dropping from the sky alone, parachuted repeatedly behind the lines, assassinating and wreaking havoc, until finding his way back to some predetermined point, he was gathered back up into the sky, helicoptered to a ship and rested, only to be sent out again and again. After cutting so many throats and terrorizing the lives of so many people he didn’t even know, his sanity demanded he throw himself into the cold sea to die.

By the time they’d fished that tired killing-bird from the ocean and brought his heartbeat back into his chest, all the death he’d made in those early days and the grudge he bore his rescuers was fossilized into his face as one permanent frown that pretended not to care.
His own eyes unable to shed a drop, this man lived for years as a walking frozen tear. With no eye big enough to weep out what the country should have helped him do, but didn’t, he waited for the climate to change so he could melt back into the ocean to forget and finally be forgotten.

For this, all the womenfolk that loved him dragged the poor man in to see me, at my camp, where I lived with my own grudge, out in the bush, shortly after returning from Guatemala; they figured maybe I could unfreeze him and help him find his smile. But I knew how that much grief would kill him in volume alone if expressed in less than fifteen lifetimes. No one seemed to understand what a sacrifice and service he did the rest of his family by accumulating all their inherited, ancestral sorrows along with his own, frozen in him alone, so the rest could live out their lives in an assumed normality.

Whether he thought it up on his own or it was something that came out of things we did, I can’t remember anymore, but all of a sudden after his third visit or so, this speechless man without a smile, with a glazed stare like a petrified frog and frozen viper frowns, began recording bird songs.

But not until he showed up again after a long disappearance with recordings filled with the fierce miniature chortlings and sparkling zings of certain South American hummingbirds did I see his face begin to thaw. He didn’t smile exactly, but in place of ice, an expression of demonic zeal toward a secret purpose had settled in.

On some sophisticated taping machine he slowed down the hummingbird songs until they were almost a set of subsonic twinklings.

This man then found his way as a crew member onto a mammal research ship surveying the Pacific waters in and out of the coastal islands off western Canada.

After weeks of keeping low and doing his job, he managed to convince of the investigators to broadcast his slowed-down South American hummingbird songs beneath the sea to see what might happen.

For days on end, pods upon pods of whales of every kind came rolling in, breaching and blowing alongside the ship, diving and gathering around the underwater speakers, chattering, hooting and cooing in courteous, measured replies between the hummingbirds’ phrases.

Slightly chagrined, the elated ship’s research personnel recorded the whales’ exuberant conversation and after speeding them up found themselves listening to some very ornate hummingbird songs!

This man began to smile a smile that threatened to break his unaccustomed lips and stretched so deep that he wept on and off for years. But that day when this tiny warrior-bird of the air was thrust into the waters of the Grandmother Ocean, he was drowned in the whales’ friendship. Those great ecstatic lords of the Grandmother Ocean chose to live in a sea of liquid grief long, long ago, and their friendly old songs sang the smile back into the drowning bird.

If our souls are truly made of fresh water and like disobedient girls long to run into the arms of the ocean, so must the tears we shed, when our dreams are kept imprisoned, be relatives of the sea. Let every teardrop be a footprint of our invisible soul swimming toward just such a welcome in our unaccustomed arms. © Martín Prechtel

I love this story because it speaks to our wounded nature. It is not a fairy tale and there is no “hollywood ending.” Instead, it says there can be insights along the way, there is healing in unexpected places, we are still welcome just as we are. ~Pepper

Share this post