Once upon a time, there was a beautiful songbird. Her gray and white plumage was always well preened and she sang with a voice more beautiful than any other in the forest. She was a particular favorite of the dryads whose job was to cultivate the forest and make them as lush and green as possible. One day this young bird went to the edge of the nest where she lived and looked down.
When she saw the precipitous drop all the way down to the ground her voice squeaked and her song caught in her throat. This happened every time she looked out over the edge of her nest and saw all the way to the down. She shivered and pulled back into her nest where it was safe and warm. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow she would go and fly.
After some time, Honeysuckle- a local dryad, came by as she did every day with food and kind words for the little bird. The bird’s mother had long since given up on her child ever flying and had gone away sad at having failed in her job of getting her child to fly. Sad at knowing that her bird would never know the joy of flitting tree to tree, or the swoop of excitement of a drop in the wind and getting plucked back up. The accomplishment of beating your wings to find what you need and the satisfaction of eating a meal after a long and tiring flight!
Each day the kind dryad brought food and was paid in turn with a song from the little gray bird. It was SO lovely. Of course, the value of the song wasn’t so easy to calculate and the dryad had much work to do, so the little gray bird would often end up with just enough food to get by. Sometimes less, but just enough. It was a difficult situation and one where the dryad was much more valuable to the bird than the bird was to the dryad.
One day, after looking down, the bird heard someone approach. Thinking it was her friend, she called out in relief. In fact, it was not. It was Lynx. The old she-cat of the forest had been listening as she passed. Lynx looks much like an oversized house cat to you and me, but make no mistake, she was anything but. Lynx loved songbirds, for one thing all cats love is playing with something beautiful and interesting before finally eating it. The little gray bird had heard of Lynx and knew her reputation as a hunter who could easily take down prey much, much larger than herself.
Frozen with fear at the oncoming cat, the little bird looked on. Its tail twitched and a breeze blew through the tufts on its ears.
“Please don’t hurt me.” Said the bird.
“Why not? It’s my job,” said the cat, “My job is to make sure anyone who gets too comfortable and isn’t what they could be becomes what I want them to be.”
“Okay, I’ll do it. I’ll do it just don’t hurt me! What do you want me to be?” Asked the little bird.
“Lunch!” said Lynx as she jumped at the bird. At the last second, the bird jumped to the left and the cat fell toward the earth as it passed, before catching onto a branch and pulling itself up again.
The gray bird sighed with relief.
“I’m coming back flightless one.” Said Lynx, “you can’t avoid me forever and when I catch you I’ll play with you far longer than usual. I wonder how long I can keep you alive.” All the while, she climbed toward the poor helpless bird.
Well now the poor gray bird was in trouble. She was afraid to fly and everything in her told her it was time to fly. There was no choice but to fly. And yet… she couldn’t. Closer crept the cat zeroing in on her prey. It coiled like a spring and leapt just as the bird dodged to the right! This time Lynx recovered more quickly.
A third time, the cat approached our poor bird friend who was too scared to call for help. Besides, what could she do? The dryads were supposed to grow the forest, not play favorites. If she was going to get out of this, it was going to take a miracle. Something would have to give. The main factor in question was her terrible fear of flying. Is it scarier to leap into the unknown where anything could happen, or to stay where you can be safe in the knowledge that danger is fast approaching?
The bird had no time to think. Faster than each of the previous jumps, the Lynx leapt at her intended prey. The bird panicked and jumped and closed her eyes preparing for the worst. But the worst never came. A yowl that grew more and more distant but never seemed to quite land told her the danger was past. She opened her eyes to find herself stuck in mid jump flapping madly in her panic. Experimentally, the bird moved forward. She moved left. She moved right. She flitted to a tree she’d always wanted to visit, but hadn’t been able to reach. She flitted back and forth again. She dropped in the wind and heard a WHOOP! Come out of her throat. She played exhilarated and went out to seek her dryad friend.
As she approached, she heard voices. Both familiar to her. One was Honeysuckle, the other was- Lynx? But it wasn’t the lynx. It was the fox, or perhaps the coyote.
“I concede your point Trickster,” said Honeysuckle, “Your way worked when mine failed. How did you think of it?” she asked.
“It was quite simple really,” said the clever trickster, “I have my role to play as much as you. My job is clever solutions to problems and so I just had to think. All it took was realizing that the only way the bird would cease to be afraid of flying would be to find something she feared worse than flying and to take away any choice but flight or that greater fear.”
“Yes, I see… …so you told her true when you said your job was to make sure people don’t get to comfortable and become what they should be.”
“Indeed it was,” said the trickster.
“So, what would you have done if she hadn’t flown?” asked the dryad.
“Simple,” said the trickster with a grin, “I would have eaten her.”