Power Of Myth

Entry by: Minda_k

23rd March 2018
The Knowledge of Birds

The superstitions of our grandmothers have a weight. Ancient myths and old wives’ tales are often told to us, stitched together and warped from so many retellings; we all know the bad luck of the black cat as we toss salt over our shoulders.

But do you know about the birds?

Birds know things: they warn us of the approaching thunderstorm and take to the air before the ground begins to quake; we should listen for the canary’s song, for when it is silenced we must run. And, most importantly, we must remember that if a bird flies into your home then Death will soon ride out to greet you.

Early-warning systems, that’s what birds are. They are scientists and almanacs and psychics and if you know how to listen they always sound the distress signal. I’ve been a good listener, but the birds around me are not to be trusted. They are liars, all. Many birds have flown in through my window and battered themselves around in the corners of my apartment, their pupils blown wide with mania, before I was able to usher them back out into the sky. Death has not yet come for me. The frantic flapping and tattered feathers littering my carpet are false alarms.

No bird came to my grandmother before she died. All of my misinformed messengers had come to the wrong place when she had needed them, and so she left without warning. She must have been startled the night Death appeared, unannounced, in her doorway. And she must have thought him rude when he lead her out into the starry desert, hand-in-hand, but she was too stoic to make a fuss. She went quietly, and I like to pretend she walked with her head raised, eyes scanning the dark sky for owls.

After arrangements had been made and executed, after family had come and mourned and gone again, I sat on the floor in the front room of her empty house. My fingers trailed over the spiraled pattern of the rug that she had woven many years ago and I thought about how I would miss it.

A clack-clacking from the open doorway raised my head. A roadrunner stood on the threshold, head cocked and tail tilted downward to brush against the floor as it stepped inside, its proud crest deflated. It knew it was late, and had come to tell me it was sorry.

The bird and I had nothing to say to one another, but we sat together in silence as the sun lowered the desert into night. Then it gave another clack from its long beak and turned back the way it had come.

The birds have no sense of time; they’re always too early or too late. One day, perhaps, they will get it right. I keep my windows open and wait, hoping that they will remember me when it is my turn to go, if only so that I can pass on just one more tale to those who will miss me. I will gladly leave their scattered feathers in the corners of my room and sleep.