Listening Like a Bird

She was good at hiding in plain light. When you radiate enough light, people see the shine and not the shape under it. They weren't distracted by her; they looked around and saw more clearly because she was there.

Underneath, she was darker. Light casts shadows and she had to be good at navigating under the light, as though her path lay always behind a waterfall or through a thick forest. She learned to listen for the sounds under her feet and over her head. The dark was mostly soft and alive. It is, she thought to herself, where we all started.

There were days when she needed more light, and then she had to turn down the shine so she could find the sun. One day, she wrapped herself in soft, dim clothes and set out to find something in the light to give her focus in the dark. She did not know where she was going or how long it would take. She packed water and fruit and nuts and chocolate and she set off on foot. Walking is the best way to see where you are and she knew that she would need clear eyes to find what she was looking for.

As she walked, she learned more about the sounds she knew from the dark. She was curious about everything, the grain in the cement underfoot, the texture of a bird's feathers, the way a scarf transformed a face. She listened, her head tilted to one side and her eyes bright with intensity. It was hard to know what kind of bird she might be.

It seemed, at last, like there was no object and no learning that she could take into the dark to keep her clear and focused while her light shone for those around her. She had walked a very long way, and listened to a thousand stories, and her eyes were tired. She found a bed, and turned down the light, and rested.

And while she rested she dreamed. She dreamed of flying and of falling. She dreamed of waters that flowed in a rush and of images that flowed in a rush. She was connected and disconnected, and scared and peaceful. Her body moved without tension to the flow of her dreams, and her breathing was quick and shallow and then deeper and then deeper still. She dreamed herself all the way to the bottom of her dreams, untangling all the threads and working through all the loops.

As she began the long walk home, she began to shine, a little more each day. Inside, she walked in the shadows and she listened. Sometimes she smiled. She knew now what she had come to find was not something she could hold and not something she could lose. She knew that whether the light was shining from her or on her, there would be shadows and blurred edges and that sound has shadows of its own. Sometimes she cried.

And sometimes, she lay down and dreamed, in a great rush, until she worked her way all the way down to the source and rested.


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