The sky darkened suddenly around the little bird. He felt a storm was coming close. Bursts of rain were common in the forest and no cause for alarm.
“A bird must keep going,” he had often told his chicks when they were afraid. “The forest is the forest in the sun, and it is still the forest in the rain. We mustn’t let a little rain keep us from our work or tiny birds don’t get their worms.”
But a storm – that was a different thing. A storm was to be respected and guarded against. His ladybird watched for signs and tried to prepare. He never did and, in fact, he often chided her for her caution. In his opinion, storms were inevitable and no amount of preparation can help when the forest is angry.
Far from the safety of his nest and anxious about the gathering wind, the bird left off his search for worms and pointed toward home. But the rain was tremendous; it struck his outstretched wings and pushed him earthward as he attempted to fly.
A lunge. A leap. Little bursts of energy rising against the fury of the storm. Blinding light accompanied by a deafening crack of thunder gave pause to the little bird’s effort. Still, he knew he wasn’t safe until he reached his nest and further, his chicks would be frightened in such a storm. So, he pushed on.
The storm is relentless… loud… unyielding. It fights him at every turn. His confidence wanes even as he makes slow progress. It builds around him as if he is the target of wrath. Every peal of thunder seems greater than the last and every streak of lighting gets closer. The wind throws the little bird off course again and again and he curses its strength. But he keeps going.
Finally, after great effort, he sees little nest, high in the home tree. The storm is dwindling, the forest’s anger passing. He stretches his exhausted wings for a final climb and soars inside. Something is wrong. He knows it instantly from the sad look on the face of ladybird. He counts little feathered heads, little closed beaks. One, two, three… One is missing – taken by the storm.
There is no answer because there is no answer. The storms of life take what they take. Only the forest knows. He has been taught this and knows it to be true. But still he wonders. Thoughts like great tempests assault his grieving mind.
If I had only been here!
Why not me instead?
What if I had built the nest stronger or in a different place?
Why didn’t I listen to the warnings about the storm?
What do we do now?
What do we do now? He is only a little bird – what could he possibly do?
He listens as his neighbors called mournfully. Songs of sorrow fill the trees and he loves them for it.
When morning comes, the little bird surveys three little feathered heads, three little empty beaks and knows they need to be filled. Leaving again is the hardest thing, but the only way to sate their mounting hunger. Back to work, back to the worms.
But nothing would never be the same. While he watches with joy as his three little chicks grow into fledglings, there is always something missing. Her absence makes the nest a hard place to be, but somehow, it is the only place that gives comfort.
Every day the forest shares something that reminds him of his little chick. In the early days, the reminders stung as hard as the rain of the storm he cannot forget. But in time, the little pieces of her give him joy and hope. And he is thankful to the forest for what it gives even while he is sad for what it took – a contradiction he would ever recognize, but too lofty a thought to understand.
After all, he is only a little bird.