There was once a child born who had a particular ability: whatever it was others saw and heard, this child felt it more.
Lights were always too bright, stairs were too steep, the grass was too green and the sky was too blue.
Sometimes, when he went outside, the colors and sights were so pretty that he would become overwhelmed and begin to cry. So he often had to see things from a distance, or from inside a room.
When others spoke, this child heard the music in their voices, the rhythmic cadence, the soothing vowels and percussive consonants. The grownups frowned when he hummed along, not understanding his deep contentment.
And when he could not sing, he spun and spun in circles with his arms outstretched, pretending he had an outside skin of feathers.
“I can fly, I can fly,” he shouted gladly, or thought he shouted; he meant to shout it. In his heart, he felt he could truly leave the ground and go.
All around him spun a dizzy blur of green and orange and blue, and then — oh! Down he fell, tumbling to the floor, head over feet.
That floor was hard! It hurt. But the grownups’ voices were even angrier.
“What were you doing!” and
“Don’t do that again!” they said.
And he wasn’t old enough yet to hear that often worry sounds like anger. But many grown ups, themselves, do not know it.
So he ran to his room, his knees and elbows red and stinging, and closed the door.
In his room, it was still and quiet.
It felt good to be alone.
Such a soul lives in a world of unspeakable beauty and pain, for where one goes, one must go by themselves.
This is a mystery no one else can understand, a mystery that defies translation.
But the lonely heart is that which loves deepest. It travels further, where others won’t.
In the afternoon, when the sunlight shone strong and warm through the bedroom window, the child sat on the floor and let the yellow honey light seep into his skin as a strength that could almost feed him.
“This earth,” he thought, “is so very heavy. But though I only have arms and no feathers, I must look for ways to still fly.”
The first thing he saw, as he pushed away the curtains and peered out his window, was a family of birds nested high in a tree.
The birds were his favorite, and he watched them daily. They woke him in the morning with their cheerful conversation, and kept him company throughout the day with their frequent comings and goings.
The birds that sing have the gift of flight, but we do not ask the price paid for such talents.
To see and soar so far is to also know a fragile dream, a dream easily broken with the slightest fear, or criticism, or doubt.
As the child watched and wept, a fledgling bird stumbled and fell too soon from its nest. He sadly acknowledged this truth of art: that too much ambition can be cruel, even fatal.
Yes, that he knew. He rubbed his left elbow (the one he’d fallen on first) ruefully.
But along the flower gardens lining the sidewalks, the bumblebees that dipped and plunged into the upturned petals amazed the child.
He could see that the translucent cellophane wings were surely not large or sturdy enough to support such solid bodies.
Yet, still the bees buzzed about clumsily like spinning tops, and he knew they flew only because no one had explained to them that they could not.
And so the boy smiled through his tears, for the bees could teach him hope.
Further yet into the garden, the grasshoppers and crickets hummed and chirped their staccato songs to each other.
The boy propped his elbows on the windowsill to hear. Though he could not comprehend their telegraphs across the grass, he felt that, in listening, he was somehow kin.
Every now and then a grasshopper helicoptered upward, its long legs springing forth, and the boy’s heart leapt a little with excitement.
For to be even mutely connected to another sentient thing is to feel a surge of reckless joy.
And then, most delicately, a butterfly alighted on the window before the little boy’s enchanted eyes.
Its wings opened and closed like fluttering eyelashes before him, and he gasped, “Oh!” his wounds from falling all but forgotten.
He knew very well that the butterfly had once been a caterpillar, and struggled, just like him, from a tight cocoon, dark and painful, into the exhilarating freedom of the great beautiful blue sky.
The child pressed his forefinger to the glass and whispered, “Thank you.”
For he had heard the butterfly’s gentle message: “You will always fly in this life, my child, because you already know how it is to love.”