One of my favorite things in life is telling bedtime stories to my two daughters, Amelia and Sophie. I've improvised hundreds over the years and occasionally write them down. Most have a spiritual message that I hope will encourage my girls to look inward and find the beauty that lies within. I believe we are all equal expressions of one creative and un-nameable energy. I believe our problems arise only from blocking the paths to what already lies within, and my stories reflect that outlook. I hope they will inspire anyone who happens upon them.
If you like them, send me an e-mail.
The sisters felt the waves shift as the boat hit deeper water. The seas were rapidly growing in intensity now that the harbor was behind them. All their senses picked up on the shift in power brought on by the newly unfettered sea. In the harbor, the boat had seemed to dominate the water, slicing through it easily, moving without worry from point to point. But out here, with no land or rock to interfere, the water was unquestionably the dominant force. Gone were the cafes and shops of the town where they’d spent the last few months. Gone was the library where they had read away the hours, peaking through the windows at the waiting sea far more often than the librarian would have preferred. They embraced the returning feeling, one with which they’d grown up, of anticipating where the deck would be with each step they took, how it would meet their feet, how it would lift them up and then drop away beneath their weight. The breaths of strong salt air, unmixed with the comforting scents of shore, filled their lungs and made their blood race. They knew well the power of the sea, and knew that it required them to match it with power of their own. They’d been waiting for this - the growing waves meant adventure, at last.
Reynalda was the first to let out the long call that the girls had been voicing for as long as they could remember. It was a sound that mimicked the cries of gulls, the tremble of a foghorn, the crash of a wave on shore. It was their own special cry, a prayer and a signal, something between them as a family, but also between each of them and the sea. Before Reynalda was a second into her call, Esperanza had joined her, matching her sister in intensity but pitching her voice higher to create harmony. Their voices soared out over the waves like powerful unwavering birds. There was no echo from the water, which seemed to welcome how far and how freely the sound could travel across its surface. Only the wooden rails and beams of the ship seemed to hold the tone close.
“Ahhh, it’s been way too long since I’ve heard that,” cried a voice from beneath the trap door that led down to the ship’s cabin. “Were you girls beginning to wonder if we’d never sail again?”
Esperanza answered the question.
“Oh, we know better than that, Pops! But it did seem like that town was getting smaller every day…”
A weathered head poked up through the trap door in response. Calisto’s face was leathery from years at sea, where sun and salt and sand had worked together to create skin both tough and supple. Three days of stubble stuck out from his chin. His hair was a tangle of blonde and gray, sticking out in all directions like the arrows of a compass on a well-worn map. He might have been a scary looking creature to some, but his smile erased that impression immediately; stretching from his eyes to his shell-white teeth, it was like a gem found inside a dusty old rock that had been cracked in two.
He hoisted himself out of the trap door with a motion that was still graceful, though not as fluid as it had once been.
“If we’re going to do it, girls, let’s do it right!”
He stepped between his daughters and took each of their hands in his, all of them adjusting effortlessly to the motion of the ship. The wind whipped through their hair, coming in every direction at once. Calisto’s seemed to dance with short, happy steps, as if returned to its natural state, while Reynalda’s long, dark locks moved in flowing waves like the sea, laying languidly across her eyes for a second only to be blown away and swept around again. Esperanza’s wiry brown curls stood against the wind, each hair claiming its place, letting the powerful eddies and torrents pass through and around each strand, welcoming their closeness but never bowing down. Together, the three leaned back, drawing in the deepest of breaths, and, after winks, smiles, and nods all around, let their sound loose across the water.
Calisto’s salt-soaked tenor built a foundation like the beams of an immovable pier beneath his daughters’ voices. Reynalda’s ethereal alto floated above it, hovering and moving with wisps of light, inhabiting the area between sea and sky where birds fly and smoke from human fires drifts before dissolving. Esperanza’s soprano formed a crystal ceiling above her, like the layer of sun above cloud, a solid pane of glass that you cannot see but cannot transcend. She held all in balance.
Together, the powerful sound they created affirmed their presence on the water, and in life, as it had always done. It was their mark in the world, created and gone in an instant.
As the last note died, and even the wood of the ship let go of the resonant vibration that the strength of their voices had inspired, they heard another sound from below deck. It was a small and sour imitation of the magnificent call they had just created, delivered with a full-throated squawk, in both tribute and parody, by their old parrot, Pistache.
“No, we didn’t forget you, Pistache! Don’t you worry!” cried Reynalda.
Laughing, she climbed down the ladder beneath the trap door and brought Pistache back up on her shoulder, where he preened his bright green feathers and puffed himself up with importance and a sense of unjustified injury.
Now the hard work of sailling began. With motions as precise as a troupe of acrobats, the girls hoisted the waiting sails while Calisto took to the wheel, preparing to use the wind that had up until that moment merely teased and flirted with them. Esperanza climbed the central mast with delicate and confident steps, unrolling the main sail from its position along the beam. After it cascaded downwards in a flurry, Reynalda secured it with hooks and sturdy knots along the bottom. In an instant, it snapped full of it’s first broad gust, curving outwards in a beautiful arch - the boat groaned, creaked, and gave in to the inescapable pull further out to sea.
Turning around for one last glance at shore from her perch high on the mast, Esperanza realized that the land behind them could no longer be seen at all. Turning back to the sea, she saw a million shades of blue, shining like sapphires and shards of turquoise, calling to her from all directions at once.
After they’d sailed for another hour, following a course laid out by the movement of the afternoon sun, Calisto called to the girls from his spot behind the wheel.
“It’s time, my daughters. Let’s see what the fates have in store!”
Esperanza clamored down from her perch high on the mast, where she’d tucked herself into a familiar cross section of wood and bolted metal. Though exposed to the elements, this spot allowed her to see as far as possible. The rocking movement of the ship was greatly amplified at the end of the long wooden mast, but she never feared falling. Ever since she was old enough to climb, this had been her most comfortable place on the boat and, therefore, in the world. While other toddlers were still being rocked to sleep in cradles, Esperanza was letting the wind and sea rock her to sleep high on the topmast of the ship she called home.
Reynalda preferred a spot on the forward bow, closer to the water than the sky. From here she could look deeply into the sea and watch for changes that might prove crucial to their journey. Her gaze seemed to penetrate the surface of the water. She could tell more about the ship’s location by looking at the fish and coral and seaweed around them than most navigators could by looking at a map. Watching the dolphins that often swam alongside, or the otters that would frolic near the ship’s edge when they were closer to shore, Reynalda knew a special kinship with the creatures of the sea. She seemed to be able to speak to them through tender smiles and shifts of light in her deep brown eyes.
Of course, some animals one simply needed to talk to directly.
“Come on, Pistache,” she said excitedly to the bird still perched on her shoulder. “Time for a roll of the dice!”
Reynalda trotted from the bow to the center of the main deck, where Calisto and Esperanza were already standing along the edge of a painted circle that was a bit worn from exposure to the elements. It was just wide enough around for the three of them to sit along the edge and face each other with an arm’s length between. Three designs were painted at equal distance around the edge of the circle, each representing a different suit as found in a typical deck of playing cards. The first was a diamond, the next was a heart, and the last was a spade. Esperanza sat down in the first place, Reynalda sat down in the second and Calisto, after pulling a small leather pouch from his pocket, sat down in the third. He opened the pouch and let three well-worn wooden dice fall onto the surface of the deck.
The rules of this game, which was really much more than a game, were very familiar to all of them. It was the method by which they let providence determine their fate. First, they would establish, by compass, the exact direction from which they had come, with the understanding that backtracking was not among possible options. Then they would roll the dice, all three at once, and study how the numbers fell. The general rule was that if the total of the dice was odd, they would turn the equivalent of a hard left, or 270 degrees on the compass, and if the total was even, they would turn a hard right, or 90 degrees. But, they had variations on this rule. If any of the dice matched it altered their course. If two of the three matched and the total was odd, they would turn 315 degrees on the compass, or the equivalent of Northwest if they happened to be facing due North. If two of the three matched and the number was even, they would turn 45 degrees, the equivalent of Northeast. And on the rare occasion that all three dice matched, they would go straight, in exactly the direction they had already been going.
Calisto picked up a die first and gave his daughters a wink as they each picked up one of their own. All of them had a ritual for drawing the most appropriate fortune from the fates. Calisto held the die over his heart quietly for 7 seconds and then blew on it 3 times. Reynalda took the die in both hands, held it in the center of her chest as if saying a prayer, and then shook it in front of her right shoulder twice, and then her left shoulder twice. Esperanza picked up her die in one hand and tossed it to the other 6 times, back and forth, and then against her lips for 4 seconds. They always finished at exactly the same time and let the dice fall together into the center of the ring.
This time the dice fell in a neat triangle pattern. All three smiled as they saw what the fortunes had revealed.
Each die showed the number 5, all three of them together, meaning that Calisto would steer a course that continued straight on in the direction they had already been sailing. This role of the dice did not happen often, but when it did it made them feel as if they’d been doing something right already – as if their natural instincts and the wisdom of the fortunes were unified and harmonious. It was also satisfying, in some deeper way, to know that the environment they were sailing into was going to be completely new and fresh. If the goal was adventure, and that meant the discovery and experience of new things, then this was the perfect way to find it, and one that seemed to be supported by all the forces in play.
It so happened that going straight, in this instance, meant going due South. Since they were in the Northern hemisphere, this also meant heading into warmer climes. That was exciting as well. It was hard to resist the lure of the tropical sun! Of course, things could get challenging if they didn’t hit land for a long time. Sometimes they had to rely on maps and charts that they hardly ever used if the situation got too challenging and food and water ran low. But, most of the time, by trusting themselves and the dice, they would arrive at a new port of call at exactly the moment they hoped to. Being open to whatever comes along, very often, means being able to achieve what you desire in the end.
Calisto picked the three dice up and put them back in the pouch.
“Onward ho, my girls!” he shouted as he walked back to his place behind the wheel, doing a little jig as he went. The ship seemed to dance with him, for at that moment there was a burst of wind that caused the ship to lurch forward as if it, too, were eager for the journey.
The girls went below deck and began to prepare the first meal of the trip. On board, one had to be very careful in conversing fresh water and food overall. If the trip got long, it was important that dried goods and canned goods were kept cool and dry and safe. Early on such a trip, though, there were still fresh vegetables and fruit that they felt very lucky to have. Those things couldn’t last during a long voyage, so consuming them over the first few days allowed them to feel particularly healthy and grateful. Being too restrained with them would only mean their being wasted in the end, as they would spoil eventually regardless. So, for their first several days, vegetables and fruits were a feature.
For this meal, Reynalda began slicing up green squash, similar to zucchini, while Esperanza retrieved some dried spicy lamb sausages from where they hung in the darkest, coolest part of the ship. Reynalda peeled off a bulb of garlic from a head that was hanging above the stove, along with a small onion from a wooden box on the floor, and cut them up as well. They put slices of greasy sausage in an iron pan, followed by the garlic and onion after it was brown, then the squash. When it was done they prepared big pieces of fresh bread with butter – two treats that would not last for long -- and put the food on the enameled metal plates that were better than fine china to them.
“Grub’s on!” Esperanza called up the stairs.
“I’ll be right there!” Calisto replied. “Smells absolutely delicious!”
They sat at the small table tucked into the corner of the cabin containing the ship’s galley and ate the delicious meal. Reynalda dipped her bread in the little bit of oil that floated around the sausage and zucchini. Esperanza spooned little bites of the food onto her bread and ate it that way, like an instant bruschetta or open-faced sandwich. Calisto alternated – one bite of bread and one bite of the main course. They didn’t say much. Their faces were stuck between mouthfuls of food and smiles of contentment.
They slept soundly that night, the girls in their hammocks and Calisto on the soft canvas mattress, stuffed with pieces of dried old sea sponge so that it would never get damp or moldy, that was a little easier on his bones. Sometimes sleeping in a hammock had left him with a back that was twisted or turned in the morning, and that was too much of liability to take on when it required so much physical strength to accomplish some of the tasks needed to sail the ship. The girls’ bodies were younger and much more flexible - they could easily spring out of the hammock and work all day without an ache or pain. Curling up into a hammock, and the weightless feeling that went along with it, was how they slept best in the world.
The motion rocked them calmly throughout the night. They slept deeply and peacefully until the morning.
For several days they went on like this – nothing exciting except the excitement of doing what they loved in a simple and unhindered way. There were fairly calm seas, and fairly strong winds. That was the perfect scenario for a family of sailors - consistent forward motion. The rhythms of their life on the water fell into their natural pace. On they went, contentedly, each spending a good bit of time in their respective perches, watching, listening, experiencing… but spending a lot of time together as well. On it went, calmly, peacefully.
Until the 5th day. That’s when things changed dramatically, in the blink of an eye.
The Rainbow Circle
Once there was a boy who sat on the steps of his porch almost every afternoon with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. He felt an uncertainty in his heart that he could not quite explain. He heard the birds singing, but he knew he was missing the meaning of their songs. He saw the clouds floating above, but, try as he might, he couldn't see the stories and shapes in them that others seemed to see. Even when he closed his eyes, he looked for the images and characters that seemed to inhabit the imaginations of others, but they never came. He sat and, what's worse, he felt, alone.
One afternoon a young lady happened to pass in front of the boy's house as he sat quietly by himself. Noticing the melancholy that seemed to emanate from him, she turned up the path and approached as if they'd known each other a lifetime, though a moment before she'd been aware of neither path nor boy.
"Good afternoon," she said. "I couldn't help but see that you look a bit lonely sitting there."
"I'm not at all lonely," the boy replied, ashamed of the truth. "I was just sitting here waiting for a friend."
The young lady smiled.
"I know that friend," she said. "And, you know what? They do always seem to come eventually!"
The young lady extended a circular object she held in her right hand. It seemed to glow with all the colors of the rainbow, buzzing and shimmering as if all the molecules of color in the world were rotating around some unseen center at the speed of light.
"Here," the lady said. "Please, take this!"
The boy was shocked. He hardly remembered being given anything in his life, much less a mysterious glowing circular object. He took it hesitantly and held on tight as it jumped in his hand. The young lady looked as pleased as could be.
"Every now and then, just hold the rainbow circle up and look through it," she said. "That's it! You'll be glad you did!"
And with that she turned and walked away as contentedly as she had approached.
The boy was uncertain as to what to do. He didn't think he believed in magic. But, a moment earlier he wouldn't have believed in the idea of a stranger walking up and handing him a gift, either. Like it or not, something different had happened. And, for how long had he been hoping that something different might happen? He walked out into his old neighborhood and considered the pulsing, mysterious object in his hand.
After a few blocks of wandering the boy found himself in front of a run-down house that had been empty for years. The porch sagged and nails stuck out of twisted floorboards. The paint had almost completely peeled off and the roof was full of holes. The yard was a snarl of weeds and cast-off trash which sank, in varying degrees, into the dirt. All in all, it was a picture of neglect, something many in the community considered an eyesore and hoped might soon be razed.
As he gazed at the house, the boy felt his curiosity grow stronger until he could no longer resist the temptation to look through the mysterious object in his hand. Slowly, with his eyes shut in nervousness, he began to move the rainbow circle up towards his field of vision. When it was directly in front of his face he felt a jolt of bravery, threw his eyes open, and looked!
Where the old, neglected house had been, he saw a brand new one, with a fresh coat of paint and spotless windows. Rocking chairs and children's toys rested on the solid wooden porch, which was lined with healthy evergreen shrubs. The roof was sturdy and the lawn well cared for. The house looked as if no force in the world could harm it or those inside.
Upon looking more closely, the boy noticed a couple sitting on a low sofa before a fireplace. At that moment, a trio of children came running down the stairs and slid across the well-polished wooden floor into the arms of their laughing parents. The house seemed to emanate life and love.
Looking more closely still, the boy realized that this was not a different house at all, but rather the same house in an earlier time, perhaps not long after it had been completed by carpenters and inhabited by this young, proud family. There were the same porch beams, the same windows, the same heavy door that now hung loosely on rusted hinges. There was the same pitch to the roof, once sealed against the elements but now open to the slightest breeze.
The boy couldn't believe what he was seeing. In a rush of fear and doubt he ran home and threw the rainbow circle into a closet underneath some sweaters where no one would find it. He felt both moved and disturbed by what he had seen, overcome by an emotion that could not be named. He wasn't sure he wanted to feel it again. And yet, what he had witnessed was a scene of pure beauty and joy. In his uncertainty, the boy left the rainbow circle untouched for weeks.
One afternoon, however, the temptation became too much to resist - the boy pulled the rainbow circle from it's hiding place and set out hesitantly around his neighborhood again. Before long he found himself in front of the house of a classmate, a girl who sometimes seemed as unsure of herself as he did. Standing on the sidewalk, he watched through the window as she put a violin nervously up to her chin and began to play.
The sound he heard was unpleasant, to say the least. The girl could not pull a pure tone from the instrument no matter how she tried. Her constant second-guessing of finger position meant that even true notes were immediately abandoned for other equally uncertain choices. In her body he saw the hunched shoulders and down-turned eyes of defeat.
Feeling a rush of excitement, the boy held the rainbow circle up to his eye. As he did so, the scratching, uncertain sounds stopped and his ears were flooded with beautiful music. Notes climbed valiantly and fell brilliantly, filling his senses to bursting. When he looked closely at the girl, he saw that she was no longer bent over but was standing straight and tall. The violin arced out from her chin as if it were part of her body. Her left hand flew over the fingerboard nimbly and her bow moved with effortless grace. Her eyes were still closed, no longer from rejecting the world but from exploring a newfound internal one, where the music could bring her to places that only existed within. With trancelike beauty, the music flowed from her and filled the surrounding world with joy.
The boy could hardly believe it. He ran home with the rainbow circle in hand and bounded up the stairs to his room - there was something he had to try. He turned the knob quickly, went in, and sat down in front of the mirror. With a mix of nervousness and excitement, he lifted the rainbow circle until he found himself gazing through it at his own reflection.
He saw his own face, but no longer burdened by pain or shame. He saw his eyes, so often sunken and dull or red with tears, but now full and deep in color, exuding a light that seemed to come from the source of all light. Where he had so often seen a frown he saw a contented smile, one that showed not ecstasy but something beyond it, something peaceful and contented that lay on the other side of what imagination could have offered. His skin was not pale but radiant, and his hair, while still tussled and wild, showed not an unkemptness or lack of care but rather the wild and uncontrollable nature he had always felt inside but had too often kept hidden.
The boy felt elated at what the mirror revealed. It was another version of himself, one he would have liked to have seen all the time. The feeling began to fade, however, when he put the rainbow circle down and his old face reappeared. He didn't know quite what to think. He felt uncertain and jealous of what the rainbow circle could do but, in the end, he found the revelations it brought to him irresistible.
And so he began to take it with him frequently on his walks around town. Every time he looked through it he saw something beautiful. For weeks, it was his constant companion. But as he used it more often, he began to fear that it was weakening. The difference between what he saw without it in place and what he saw when he gazed through it grew to be less and less until there was barely any discernable difference at all. He grew frustrated with the rainbow circle, thinking maybe its magic had worn off, and decided that the best test of whether it was still working would be to look at himself in the mirror through it once more.
As he sat in front of the mirror and brought the rainbow circle to his face this time, he felt that his fears had been confirmed. There was no difference. But, when he looked more closely, he noticed something amazing - the lack of difference was only in that his true, radiant face, the one he had seen through the circle before, was now there even without the circle in place. The difference was not that the magic circle had stopped working but rather that he now saw the world as if looking through it all the time.
He suddenly knew what the rainbow circle had done - it had revealed the true essence of the world around him. It had shown the core on which love is built, the real nature of existence, the perfection that is distorted only by the self-limitations of our perception and not by any flaws within the world itself.
He moved the circle in and out of his field of vision several times to be sure. No difference. There he was, his true soul on display, an upright, bright, loving, fearless, person with no need to judge himself or anyone else.
In joy, he headed outside and walked through his neighborhood, now filled with a love for everything that his senses encountered. He heard the birds singing and knew their songs, he saw epic creations in the clouds, and when he closed his eyes they were filled with roaring colorful visions of life.
While walking in front of one shop he saw a man who hadn't gotten the nearest parking spot get out of his car and slam the door in frustration. The man marched off in anger, huffing and puffing, cursing aloud, stomping in anger at whoever had gotten the better spot, shuffling in anger at himself.
The boy walked up to the car, placed the rainbow circle where the driver wouldn't miss it, and wrote a short note, saying, "Look through this sometime. That's all!"
And he walked on through the neighborhood with a full heart.
The Red Bird
Once upon a time there was a little red bird who lived in a cherry tree on the side of a mountain. Her tree was absolutely beautiful, with fragrant blossoms, stout but flexible branches, delicate leaves, and fruit that ripened to a point exactly halfway between sweet and tart. She was certain that her tree was the best in the world and so she never left it, not even to visit the plum and peach trees that also graced her side of the mountain. Above her she saw the snow-capped peak, so high that it was sometimes obscured by clouds, and below her she saw the forest growing thicker and thicker until, at the mountain's base, it teemed with so much life that it might be better called a jungle. But, while she couldn't resist gazing at these places, she stayed put, telling herself that there could be no better tree in the world than hers.
One day she saw a powerful eagle fly up from below and land on a rocky ledge not far away. The little bird could hardly contain herself. Here was a creature who had seen the world. Surely he could confirm that her tree was the best of all! Though hesitant to venture away from her nest, she found she couldn't resist the urge to go to him. And so she gathered up her bravery and flew across to the ledge, catching the eagle just as he was about to fly upwards through the clouds.
"Mr. Eagle!" she cried out. "Hello there, Mr. Eagle!"
"Well hello, little bird," he replied curiously, settling back down onto the rocks.
"I wanted to ask you a question. Do you see that cherry tree over there, across the way?"
"Yes, I do see that beautiful tree."
The little bird was so excited to hear those words that she could hardly contain herself.
"Yes, it is a beautiful tree! That’s MY tree! And that's what I wanted to ask you. You have clearly seen the world, high and low. I have not, but I simply cannot imagine that a more perfect tree exists anywhere in all of creation. And so, I am not compelled to leave! Tell me, does a more perfect tree exist than mine?"
The eagle looked at the little bird softly and smiled.
"No, a more perfect tree does not exist," he said.
The little bird hopped up and down with joy!
"But," said the eagle, "you won't know what that answer really means until you have taken many journeys and seen many trees for yourself."
The little bird was crestfallen.
"What do you mean?" she said.
"Start flying, start seeing, and you will find out," said the eagle.
"But I'm frightened - "
"Whatever impulse led you to fly over to me, that same impulse will guide you and inspire you. You have everything you need inside. Just follow it!"
And with that, the great eagle flew off into the clouds.
Well, the little bird knew that there was a longing inside her, the longing that had always looked up at the peak and down at the jungle - the longing that had led her to fly to the eagle in the first place, even in her desire to quell that longing once and for all! And so, she gathered up her bravery again and began flying.
First she flew to the peach and plum trees not far from her own. She could hardly believe how sweet their blossoms smelled! Just like her cherry tree, yet somehow different. And their leaves were so green and full! She had never noticed how lovely they were. She twittered delightedly among their branches for a very long time.
She felt so excited by her discovery that she decided to venture away from the fruit trees altogether, and, though apprehensive, she headed downward, over the forest, in the direction of the jungle below.
She could not believe the trees that came into her field of vision as she flew over the woods. Enormous white oaks and elms, sweetgums, cedars, pines, and spruce, all pushing upwards towards the sun, all vibrant and lush. As she approached a group of evergreens, a scent so powerful came to her that she almost fell out of the sky. Here was a smell like nothing she'd ever experienced, almost the opposite of the sweet blossoms she was used to, yet she thought it might be the best thing ever to tickle her nose. Stringent and strong, the scent of the pines touched her so much that she alighted on a branch and crushed a few needles in her talons in order to inhale it all the more deeply.
When at last she felt like moving on, she found herself coming to the base of the mountain, where the land spread out evenly in all directions. Here, at this low elevation, the growth of the trees and other plants was uncontained. It seemed limitless. She looked out over live oaks and mahoganies and palms and rosewood trees and a thousand other types. They grew so thick that the ground beneath could not be seen. It seemed to her that life was rushing to fill every space available to it, pulsing and growing beneath her eyes.
The bird flew excitedly over the jungle until it started to thin out and give way to grassier lands. Here, still, some trees fought for themselves in great isolation from one another. These tough, scrabbly trees were scarred from unhindered lightning and strong prairie winds. But there they were, standing proud all the same.
The grasslands eventually gave way to sandier soil and soon the bird found herself soaring along the edge of a great ocean. Trees reappeared along stretches of the beach beneath her - twisted mangroves and fragrant bougainvilleas, their roots darting across the shifting sand like crabs. How they grew in what seemed only sand and salt, she didn't know. But there they were.
After a long time sailing along the water's edge, the little bird came at last to a wall of rocky cliffs. Expecting to find no trees there, she turned upwards and flew towards the plateau above. But halfway through her ascent something caught her eye and stopped her mid-flight. Right there, where she expected to see nothing at all, tucked into a small rocky nook, was a tiny tree that almost took her breath away. Surrounded by nothing but rock and beaten constantly by wind and salty spray, she knew it had to be the most determined tree she had ever seen. With so little sun or fresh water, it seemed impossible that it could be there at all - yet, when she landed on it's tiny limbs she felt how strong and well-rooted it was. She couldn't help but wonder, staring at it the thin knotty branch in her talons, if this tree, defying all the challenges life had thrown at it, wasn't the most perfect of all.
And at that moment she suddenly knew what the eagle's answer meant! There was no tree more perfect than her cherry tree, it was true - because each and EVERY tree was perfect! Each tree was fulfilling it's own desire and it's own destiny and living in the way in which it was meant to live as an expression of Love. She had thought hers was more perfect than all the others because it was so different, so unique, and so beautiful. But now she realized that her tree was perfect not because it was different, but because it was one and the same, not separate at all! The little bird understood that when you look with eyes that really see, the tree you are in at any moment will always be the perfect tree.
With a newfound joy in her soul, the bird rose up from the side of the cliff and soared into the air. Now she looked and saw the beauty of the world glowing all around her. She heard a contented, effortless hum that seemed to contain the energy of creation. She had never noticed it before, but now it came from the ocean below, from the sun above, from her own heart.
And with this feeling she began flying home, a new journey filled with light and hope. No longer did she compare one tree to another as they passed beneath her. They were all the most delightful things she had ever seen, equally and together. Her long journey seemed to pass in one moment.
When she came to the base of the mountain she felt great joy knowing that her tree waited not far above. She crossed the woods, climbing higher and higher, until the grove of fruit trees came into view. And then, at last, she saw her tree again and she flew to it with an overflowing heart.
She landed on her old branch and climbed into her old nest with the most profound knowledge in her chest that the eagle had been right. There was no more perfect tree in the world than hers. And there was no less perfect tree than hers. The answer was right there, humming in the very branches beneath her. Her tree, no better, no worse, radiated with such love and beauty that she felt like weeping. She saw it, as she saw herself, truly, for the very first time.