January 8, 2018
One day, Grandmother felt a chill in her bones and sensed the end was near. She called Grandson into her lap, covered them both in blankets, and began the story of Wolf and Songbird.
“Many will tell you these animals can’t coexist”, she said. “But how two such different creatures came to depend on each other is one of life’s most beautiful friendships..."
All his life, Wolf hunted alone. His strength and cunning were unmatched in the forest, and his howl could make fur and feather stand on end from miles away.
But Wolf’s strength made Man jealous, and they began setting traps for him. Wolf went from hunter to hunted; his silver coat went mangy, and he became hunched and fearful.
One day, Wolf awoke to a beautiful sound.
He followed the noise to a clearing, where he spotted a small yellow bird high up in a tree.
‘Bird,’ Wolf growled. ‘What is this you’re doing?’
‘Singing!’ Songbird replied.
‘That is a waste of time and strength’, Wolf frowned. ‘It does not bring you food, or a safe place out of the cold .’
‘But it brings me joy!’ said Songbird, swooping away.
Wolf felt a pang. A longing he’d never known before filled his heart.
‘Wait,’ he barked, bounding after the yellow speck in the sky. He offered a deal: ‘You come down and teach me to sing. And I promise never to eat you, and to keep you safe from harm.’
Songbird settled on a branch and peered down at panting Wolf with bright, seeing eyes. ‘You will never sing, just as I cannot hunt. You could eat me in a moment!'
She laughed at the thought.
'Then again,' she mused, 'it IS awfully lonely up in the sky...'
Songbird cocked her head, an idea taking shape.
"If you will protect me and keep me company, I can spot the traps laid for you from high above, that you are too close to see. I can point you to the fairest meadows and the coolest streams.’
As Wolf pondered this, Songbird added: “and knowing I am safe, my singing will only grow in joy and beauty.”
And so, the deal was struck.
Songbird lifted her wings, and Wolf got to his feet. As they journeyed together, she pointed out traps, and he chased away those who would harm her.
And she sang, and his heart swelled.
Grandmother fell silent. Grandson's face was screwed up in thought.
Finally he could take it no longer, and blurted out: "But Grandma, which one is right?"
"Wolf, or Songbird? Is it better to be safe and secure, or to be free and joyful?"
"Ah," Grandmother smiled. "It's a trick question."
And here she raised the blanket to cover both of their heads, and whispered in his ear:
"The real question is... how can you be both?"