My dearest son, before I sleep I will write you this letter and tell you of my day.
I was sitting in my chair under the awning waiting for customers, my eyes closed because of the dusty road. You remember when that would make you laugh and you would say, ‘Papa, you are sleeping again, how will you see your customers?’
And then I heard her, softly from where the trees sit on the other side of the road.
I had never heard the song before. I looked and saw her. Poor thing in grey, a grey so soft, so light it drifted in the rising heat. I called out, ‘Mother, please come rest a while.’
Slowly at first, then a little faster she came across the empty road.
‘Please, drink with me? And share my bread. It is a little dry today but you can dip it in the tea.’ I waited inside until she was comfortable, then brought out hot tea and some bread baked yesterday.
She watched and did as I did and broke the hard bread between us and moistened it with a little tea. Oh, she was hungry! I said, ‘I am so pleased to sit with you a while’.
Her head twisted this way and that before she told me her story. I closed my eyes to hear it.
So sweetly, I heard, ‘I come from the land where no one sings. Our old people taught us the story of the Messenger Bird. People would hear the bird’s song and they would hold each other and they would talk and feast as if it was their last day and go to sleep with full hearts knowing there would be one less living before the next day ended.
I opened my eyes and found hers, dark and true. ‘Mother, let me get you some more tea ’, and I remembered your uncle had brought me some fresh honey just that morning. You remember his pretty garden where you played as a child, always so happy? You loved his sweet, golden honey.
She ate and drank some more before continuing her story. ‘But the new ways came and the young would not listen to the old people. They did not want to hear the sad stories. And they forgot the birds’ song. People would run from all the birds, throw stones at the birds, kill the birds. They feared the large birds, the small birds, the coloured and the plain. So the birds stopped singing. Years passed and mothers and fathers would say to their children, ‘hush now, don’t sing, do you think you are a bird?’ and children would laugh and say ‘birds don’t sing!’
And then my guest went on her way and the road was empty again. I wish you had been here today to hear her song but you are so far away. If only you had wings like hers to get you here.
And now I am happy to sleep. I wish you a happy life my dearest son, where ever the road takes you, Papa.