By Mike McMahon
Once there was a young sparrow, newly born, who lived in the forest with her mother and father and brothers and sisters. For her, life was very beautiful. In the mornings the air was cool, in the afternoons the sun would warm her. Her father would bring her salty, crunchy bugs to eat; her mother would bring sweet, juicy worms. She loved to see her mother and father fly through the forest from tree to tree. She felt a great joy knowing that one day she too would fly. Best of all though, were the evenings when she would lay down with her brothers and sisters. Her mother would put her body over them like a blanket, and they would fall asleep to the beating of her heart. It was then that the sparrow felt completely happy, safe, and secure.
One evening there was a great storm in the forest. While her brothers and sisters huddled beneath their parents, the young sparrow was curious to experience the wind and rain. She moved out from under her mother to the edge of the nest. The rain was cold and refreshing, and the thunder and lightning were thrilling. Suddenly, a large gust of wind caused the branch to lurch and the sparrow was thrown from her nest. She landed with a soft thud on the thistle-tufted floor of the forest.
Her father flew to her and asked if she was alright. She was not hurt. But the sparrow could tell from the look in her father’s eyes that the situation was not good – there would be no way she would be able to return to her beautiful nest in the tree. She knew that she was going to die there on the forest floor. She looked up at the nest where she’d been so happy and safe just a moment earlier. How she longed to return there! The forest had always been so beautiful to her, but now it seemed dark and frightening. How could her world have changed so suddenly? In one moment she had fallen from heaven into hell.
Her father stayed with her through the night. As day began to break the forest came slowly to life. Her mother flew down to be with her while her father went to look for food.
They spotted a fox across the forest floor. It was clear that he had seen them too, for he was slowly approaching. The mother and father began swooping about the fox in order to distract him. But the fox scarcely noticed them, intent as he was on his prey. At the last possible moment, the mother and father flew back to their nest. Now the sparrow felt completely alone and abandoned by all that was good and kind. Her terror was so great that she could not move.
Suddenly the fox was before her.
“Don’t worry,” said the fox, “I’ll take good care of you”.
“But . . .you’re going to eat me” said the sparrow.
“Yes,” said the fox.
“It will hurt,” said the sparrow.
“Just for a moment” said the fox, “I promise”.
Suddenly, the sparrow didn’t feel so afraid.
“What will become of me?” said the sparrow.
“Look around you”.
The sparrow looked around at the forest she had loved so well. Before today, she had only seen the forest from above. Now it was all around her! How beautiful it was! There were so many types of creatures – all working busily to live. The trees loomed large and lovely above her – with many different types and colors of foliage. A fresh stream flowed through a clearing in the center of the forest and on its banks were hundreds of brightly colored flowers. Now as she was about to die, the forest seemed more achingly beautiful than ever. She longed to remain a part of it.
“Why do I have to die”?
“If you didn’t die, the forest couldn’t be the forest. The life of the forest is nothing more that the continual birth and death of the thousand things that make up the forest. One day I too will die”.
The fox moved directly over the sparrow.
“It’s time now . . .”
“But let me tell you a great secret”, he put his paw upon her.
“You are not a sparrow,” he opened his mouth.
“You are the forest”; his teeth pierced her breast.