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March 29, 2012

A Canary flew into the Unknown


My mother was fond of her little male canary. She used to take good care of him. She cleaned his cage every day. She would feed him with all kinds of fruits and yummy birdseed, of course. And she used to talk to him too. As for talking to him, while visiting with her, I have to say that I did too. In fact, I used to try to mimic his sounds and he… would repeat back the sequences for a while; a form of alien conversation, I suppose.

“And the most subtle and strongest of all the golden cages is that of your own mind, because as you may already know, your heart always aches to be free.”

He had a little mirror in the cage, next to his perch. He was fond of this little mirror and in the evenings he used to sleep next to it, perhaps looking for company, even if this was only a reflection of himself. It was funny but sometimes he used to bang the mirror with fury. At times I thought he wanted to get to the canary that was reflected on it. Other times, I imagine that perhaps he thought that this mirror was a window, a means for him to escape. It made me sad to see such a beautiful bird in jail, even though his only crime was to sing beautifully. It is so ironic but in a similar manner, I suspect that an untold number of people are jailed precisely for being beautiful, in their own particular way.

But the irony of him wanting to escape by banging the mirror did not escape me. That is, I often wondered if my escape mirror was the computer screen itself. It was uncanny but it seemed that there were many parallels between the little fellow and myself; because as you know, a golden cage is, after all, a cage.

Sometimes, when I drove my mother off to her Sunday church services, I would take him out of the cage and let him loose in her office room and encourage him to fly. As you could imagine, freedom can be such a fearful thing. The poor little fellow was so scared that I could feel his heart pounding when I held him in my hands, to put him back in his cell. You see, I wanted to strengthen his wings for the day when he would need them, at last. I organized his two perches on his cage so that he could fly from one to the other without obstruction. Again, the objective was for him to exercise his wings.

He was, by all accounts, a “bad apple.”

Well, the little fellow had a lot of bird friends. Of course many came to eat the seeds that fell off his cage or the ones my mother used to lay around on purpose. But some of them would just sit around and keep him company. Sometimes they would even sit on top of his cage, as well. There was a little black bird that looked very much like a canary. He was bold and brash, to be sure. He would cling to the outside of the cage and stick his head inside and eat the birdseeds directly from the dispenser. He was, by all accounts, a “bad apple.”

Of course I felt sad for the little canary and sometimes I would tell him that when the time came, if I could, I would set him free. You see, he had no companionship. Least of all, a female bird friend and I suspect that nature cannot be denied, at least not for long. But in some strange way, what also made me sad where the parallels to my own life. The invisible strings of the comforts of life keep untold millions in cages and I am no exception. And the most subtle and strongest of all the golden cages is that of your own mind, because as you may already know, your heart always aches to be free.

One day the “bad apple” pried open one of the metal wire-bars that hold the cage together and got inside. To his surprise he was now a jailbird too and he was completely frightened. I help him out of the cage and told him to think twice before trading places with the canary. Freedom can be incredibly beautiful and incredibly savage at the same time. Trading it for the comforts of life has its rewards and disappointments.

I tried to fix the cage but since the little canary didn’t even flinch for the brief moments when the “bad apple” shared his cell, I thought that he wouldn’t even try to escape. After all, the tension from the wire-bars on the cage was quite strong.

One day, while visiting, I came out to the balcony to enjoy the view of the trees on the golf course and the mountains in the background. This is where the canary’s cage was hung from. And when I looked into the cage, much to my surprise, it was empty. Alas, the little canary had flown away. My mother hoped for him to return, so she left the door to the cage open and food in it for a few days, but to no avail, for he was determined to never give up his new found freedoms.

It is strange but I was elated at the courage of this beautiful bird. He had traded the safety and comforts of life for the dangers of the unknown. People said that he would not last the harsh cold evening. Isn’t it amazing how close our lives can be from civilization to utter release? I suppose that the odds are against him and perhaps bird knowledgeable people are correct. But in my heart of hearts, I think that for this little fellow, they are not. I can just imagine his first flight, jumping off from the fifth floor and into the void. What a scary thing it must have been, but also, what a rush!

Nowadays, the place is quiet with no canary songs, but I am not saddened by it. On the contrary, I imagine all kinds of wondrous adventures for him. Sometimes, when I am awake and walking about in the neighborhood at the break of dawn, when every blade of grass is wetted in dew and when I can smell the rich scent of the soil, I listen intently to the early chirps of the many birds awakening, to see if I could hear the distinct sound of his song, that is, the song of freedom.

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