The children’s autumn cheers of summer’s faded heat are hushed by Winter’s snow blanket draped over them by his heavy storm. It’s the first of the season, but not the first sign of the time.
An early November dusting came before…a shot fired across the children’s bow, a dimming of lights to warn the curtain was soon rising on the quietest of scenes. So all is covered and all is still and everything is sleeping except the bright red bird.
She’s perched in protest, hard as a ruby in an ocean of white, breaking up all of Winter’s work and disrupting the Order. And there is surely an Order to these things though order to the Order is not always easy to see. But it is nonetheless a universal law supported by the land’s understanding and obedience to the rhythm and verse written ages ago.
The dances celebrating Summer’s warmth
The praises sung to Fall’s holy colors and milder days
The silence and rest brought by Winter
And the deep stretches and uprisings of Spring.
None of those laws are alive inside the red bird and obedience is a fox’s mouth.
“It’s time to be still, my Lamb. You’ve played and sung well for three verses, and now you must rest,” softly howls the Winter wind.
“I don’t want to rest. Let the others rest. That is not what I’m here to do. There is much, too much to see and say,” sings the red bird.
“There is an Order to these things, my Lamb. An Order more ancient than you or me. One that your brothers and sisters have swallowed and respect. An Order that has been forever and will play on well past the final note.”
“But I am the red bird,” she sings. “My brothers and sisters are not. I must look and build and learn and sing. If you were a red bird, you would know this, but you are not as I am the only one.”
“I was a red bird. A wonderful and fearless creature…the reddest of all and, perhaps, a much stronger bird than I am Winter. But that was only a season just as this is only a season,” answers the maker of the snow and upholder of the law.
“Not true!” she thunders violently and looses a heap of snow above her limb that crashes on her fiery spine.
“Tell me, who taught you the songs you sing?” asks Winter.
“No one! I have always known them because they belong to me,” she proudly chirps.
“You sing them like no other, my Lamb, but they are not yours. I sang them to you while you were still without wings. I sang them through the coldest mornings to bring us a morsel of comfort while you were learning to breathe as a bird and I was learning to provide as the Winter.”
“Who then, oh great soother, taught them to you?” asks the red bird.
“My father the Mountain and my mother the Fire. But they were very different songs then, you see? Though not always a Mountain, my father could never be a red bird. Though always warm, my mother was never a red bird. The songs they sang were the best they had for their red bird and I kept them with me always, sometimes buried so deep I could barely hear. They helped make me Winter and they are threads in this blanket that is covering us all.”
“Let it cover you as well, sweet bird…just for the season. You’re a beautiful contrast to the work that has been done, but it’s time to get down and be still. I promise there is a lifetime of places to contrast ahead of you if you will learn to respect the Order,” I whisper with generations of conviction.
She twitches her head around at the empty stage of the white-topped mountainside and sees that she is all alone in her challenge of Winter’s work. His words soak through that ruby hide and she hears his songs softly pet the back of her neck taking her back to those early mornings in her nest with a young Winter cupping her in his hands while gently singing the same songs she performs today.
And for a minute she understands the Order, its age, and its purpose. But only a minute.
“You are a good Winter who tries to cover us well and keeps us safe and rested. But I am the red bird and it’s the only thing I know to be. So I, too, must be a verse in the Order. Through all of your work, you’ve forgotten that verse and how happy we can be when we sing it.”
With a shivery flick she sheds the bothersome snow from her back holding fast to her perch, committed forever to her place.