A soul could be a bird. In “The Girl who Fell Beneath the Sea” by Axie Oh, the main character’s soul is a magpie, and I feel like mine could be some avian variety as well. I can feel it now, in fact. Fluttering madly in my chest, the ribs like cage bars. Such is anxiety. It’s a tumultuous desperation, as much physical as mental.
When I’m confident and calm, the bird’s wings extend into my arms, it inhabits myself and propels me. It’s a strong, persistent thing, this bird. Like the bird in “Doctor Who”’s “Heaven Sent,” which passes the first second of eternity by sharpening its beak on a mountain, slowly chiseling it away. “You must think that’s a hell of a long time – personally, I think that’s a hell of a bird,” says the Doctor. It is.
But as stress sets in, the bird shrinks, leaving tension and tingling in the limbs in its wake. This, perhaps, is a point of meditation – getting that bird back where it belongs, mindfully.
Stressors are not what we would choose. But I think we do have a choice when it comes to how to care for our birds. As Jonathan Larson put so succinctly in “Louder than Words” in “Tick Tick Boom”: “Cages or wings, which do you prefer? Ask the birds… Fear or love?” I can breathe and open the cage door, perhaps. I can think of the sky, the light, the good, and by doing so let the bird soar in it – maybe, hopefully, sometimes. “Find the light and the shadow will not find you,” as Tolkien said. I’m trying, J.R.R. and Jonathan. Perhaps I’ll find the wings and the cage will not find me, either.