The Golden Bird
The Golden Bird
Once upon a time there was a little golden bird which just loved to fly through the blue sky, and to sing out of mere joy over the beauty of the world. Many people heard the joyful song of the golden bird, and because their hearts were full of sorrows and unhappy thoughts, they wanted to catch the bird and to keep it in a cage where it should sing when they wanted it to sing. To be silent when they wanted it to be silent. But the golden bird flew high over their heads, singing and enjoying the beauty of the world.
Sometimes however, the little golden bird wondered why so many people lived on the green crust of the earth. Working hard and having happy as well as unhappy thoughts. After a while the golden bird got tired of the empty blue sky and wanted very much to live a human life on the green surface of the earth. When the old architect of the universe heard the golden birds wish he shook his head and said “My dear little golden bird, you don’t know what you ask for. You don’t know what sorrows really are.”
But the little golden bird insisted on living a human life like all the others on the green earth. Since the little bird begged and begged, the lord finally said “well, I shall transform you in to a human being, but you cannot change back in to your present form of existence until your human life has ended.”
So the golden bird was born on earth as a little girl who just loved to walk through the green woods and fields, singing out of mere joy over this wonderful world. One day when she was no longer a little girl, but a beautiful young maiden, her mother died. Now she knew what sorrow was. All night long she cried over the body of her beloved mother. When the morning came and the sun threw its light on her mothers marble-like face, her father took her hand and led her out of the room. “My dear daughter”, he said, “we human being must have the courage to live and say good-bye.
Keep the image of your dear mother in your heart! Live, as if she were still with you, because her love will always be with you.
Little birdy, that was the girls name, started a new life. She worked hard and shared her earnings with her old father who also worked hard, because the times were not good. Many sorrows she learned, but they were all very little, compared with her first great sorrow.
Birdie knew that her mother’s love was with her. She felt that her mother lived in her heart, but also in the tender flowers and strong trees. And when she walked through the green woods and fields, she sang out of meer joy over this wonderful world.
The old architect of the universe smiled, while tears came to his eternal eyes.
Everybody liked birdy, and birdy liked everybody, because she did not know that the others were different and did not have the heart of a golden bird.
Many young men saw the beautiful maiden and heard her joyful singing. Everyone of them wanted to marry her, wanted to keep her in hs house, where she should sing, when he wanted her to sing, and would be silent, when he wanted her to be silent. Birdy didn’t love any of them so much that she would give up her freedom. She preferred the friendship of those gils and boys who liked wandering and singing as she did herself. She knew songs of many lands, and spoke many languages.
One day, Birdy met a young man whom she liked better than the others, because he was beautiful and could laugh a joyful laughter. She spent the whole day with him, walking through the green woods and fields, and singing out of mere joy over this wondeful world. When the evening came, they entered a little inn on the roadside and ordered a simple meal.
Birdy looked out of the window and saw the first star in the dark blue sky. “Look, the first star”, she said to the young man, who had reached for the newspaper. “I wished, we could fly right in to the world of stars!” He replied: “What a silly idea!” He opened the newspaper. Birdy continued: “Whenever I see the stars, I want to sing out of mere joy over the beauty of the world.” “Keep quiet!” he said. “I want to read the paper.”
Astonished, she asked: “Don’t you want to sing with me?” “No”, he replied. There is a time for singing, and there is a time for silence. Now I want you to be quiet, because I must read the sports news”. He looked in to his newspaper and did not see that her face turned away from him, and toward the evening star.
The young man was so interested in the last boxing events, that he did not notice it, when birdy silently stood up and left the room.
She stepped out of the house and walked through the darkness. Many silvery stars were shining over her head, and she cried bitterly for the second time in her life. The young man was still reading the paper, when the innkeeper brought the meal and asked “Where is the young lady?” The lad looked around and said: “Oh, she must have left the room for a moment. She will soon be back. I’ll start eating, for I am very hungry.” But birdy did not come back to him.
The next morning when birdy had breakfast with her father, she said “I want to travel into the wide world. Here, everything is so narrow, and people are very narrow too.”
The old man shook his head and said: “Dear birdy, the world can everywhere be wide or narrow. Your friend disappointed you. Can you be sure to find a better one far away?” “I don’t know”, said birdy. “But if I cannot find a better one, I shall come back to you.”
The old man opened the drawer of his desk, and gave Birdy a little box with golden coins, rings, and necklaces. “That’s what your mother left behind. Take it! Keep the rings and necklaces, and you will feel her near you. With the coins you can buy the passage on a ship which will bring you to the other side of the ocean. Over there, you must work hard in order to make an honest living. Are you ready for a hard life?” Birdy nodded “Yes, I shall be happy to work hard, as long as I can sing whenever I like to.”
Birdy told her friends about her decision to travel in to the far world, and they arranged for a vig party where they sang song in different languages, and gave birdy many farewell gifts. Finally the ship left the harbour, and birdy was standing on deck waving both hands. And after the ship had disappeared on the horizon Birdy’s friendssaid to her lonely father: “Now you must wander and sing with us.”
On the other side of the great ocean, Birdy left the ship and went to the castle of a rich couple of whom she worked as a house-keeper, cook, and maid. The little castle stood on a cliff, over looking the infinite ocean. The lady liked Birdy, because she sang like a bird and never complained over the work she had to do.
One afternoon the lady and birdy spoke about a poor neighbour who had just passed away. Birdy said to the lady: “Since all people are children of God, they should share the fruits of this earth equally. Don’t you think so?” The lady was shocked and said: “Are you a communist?” Birdy said: ” I do not know what communism actually means, but if it means the black and white men should be equal, and that the difference between rich and poor should finally disappear….”
The lady interrupted her. “You harbour very dangerous thoughts, Birdy! God has made the world as it is, when the poor want to take the property of the rich, – who can be sure of his proterty and life? With your ideas you better look for work in another home!”
Birdy left the beautiful small castle on the sea shore, and took a dirty little room in the big city. Going from house to house, she tried to sell a lady’s magazine. She saw very many unhappy and unfriendly people. Seldom she found the time for walking through the hills, and for singing full of joy over this wonderful world.
Therefore, she decided to go to school again and to learn more of this world of ours. She found a nice college, standing in a huge green park, where many young people, like herself wanted to learn and to talk and to sing and to laugh. She worked for an old professor and his wife, doing all the house work as a maid and a cook.
Everybody liked Birdy, and Birdy liked everybody. But she liked one young man more than all the others. He was good looking, intelligent, and happy, and had been born in the same far away country from which she herself had come.
Once, Birdy and Julius – That was the young mans name. Walked through green woods and fields, singing and laughing and exchanging sweet words of love. When evening came, they entered a little inn on the roadside and ordered a simple meal. Birdy looked out of the window and saw the first star in the dark blue sky. She said: “Look! The first star! Would it not be wonderful to fly right in to the world of the stars?”
Julius kissed her and said: “With you, I go anywhere you want.” When the inn-keeper brought in the meal, birdy was still there, holding her friends hand.
Birdy and julius married and lived together under the roof of the old professors house, where birdy still worked, while preparing for her final examinations.
After one year, Birdy and Julius travelled on a big white ship over the immense blue sea towards the land, where both of them had been born, and had a happy childhood.
After another year, a healthy little boy was born, whom the happy parents called Cress. Julius worked hard for his father’s firm, and birdy took care of the baby and the little household. One day when birdys father came and asked her whether she was still singing, she laughed and said: “I am singing from morning to night, and our little Cress will soon learn to sing too.”
Cress grew quickly, and his parents played gayly with him on the green lawn of their little house.
When Cress began to sing, a second son was born and called “Less.” And when Less began to sin, a little girl was born was born and called Kess. And when Kess began to sing, another baby was born, which died at once. Birdy experienced her third great sorrow.
Birdy was no longer a young maiden, but a mature woman. She cried over the little body of her baby, until her old father came in and said: “Dear Birdy, we human beings must have the courage to live and say goodbye. This baby was spared many heavy sorrows. For us, however many sorrows are waiting behind the next corner.”
Right he was. Julius lost his father, and after a while his mother too. His relatives who had shares in his father’s firm made life miserable for him. He could no longer laugh and sing with Birdy. He became impatient with her and even scolded her. In such moments she would take Cress, Less, and Kess and walk with them through the green fields, and showed them the beauty of the world.
Time flew, and another little girl was born and called Tess. Birdy gave her time and energy to the four children, Cress, Less, Kess and Tess. And when she was singing with them her husband got jealous and said: “Birdy, you are childish and silly. You don’t know the reality of life and the value of money. You would better share my sorrows, instead of singing all day long.” He was no longer a young man, but an efficient and respected businessman, well known in the town, and many girls were eager to draw his attention and to please him.
Many friends visited their home, which was no longer a little house, but a big house with a beautiful garden. Everybody enjoyed Birdy’s company, because one felt at ease with her. The guests forgot their sorrows when they spoke with her.Birdy was so kind and cheerful with their guests, as she was with her children. This made her husband impatient. He complained, that she did not ask, from where all the money came that they needed for the big household. That she did not share his sorrows “You are far behind me.” he said.
One evening, when birdy was alone at home, somebody knocked at the door. She opened, and there stood a stranger with a very ernest and unfriendly face. She asked him what he wanted and he said: “I am Dr. Death. I came to get your body, because your life has come to it’s end.” Birdy looked at the strangers hard eyes and said: “I shall be ready when my time really is over. I have four children to take care of, and my husband, though he doesn’t show it, needs me too.” There was a long silence. Birdy spoke again. “To show my sincerity, I will give you part of my body today, the rest you may take when my children no longer need me.” Birdy felt how alone she was at the moment. She thought of the songs she still wanted to teach her children, especially Tess, the youngest one. The architect of the universe saw Birdy’s fourth great sorrow, and tears fell from his old, old eyes upon Birdy’s forehead. The lord’s tears were shining like diamonds and Dr. Death held his hand over his eyes because the diamons on Birdy’s forehead blinded him. After a while, which seemed like an eternity to Birdy, the stranger said: “All right. I take a part of your body now. Don’t forget that I shall come back for the rest, when the time comes!” Birdy looked straight in to the eyes of Dr. Death, and her eyes blinded him like the diamonds. “All right”, she said, “I am ready now for the pawn, and I shall be ready when my time comes.”
Birdy spoke to nobody of her conversation with Dr. Death, not even to her husband. Everybody took her operation as a fact and congratulated her on the success of her operation. She quickly recovered and did all kinds of exercise in order to get back full control of her body. She walked with the four children through the green woods, singing and laughing, but something strange was in her voice. In summer they swam in th ecold mountain lake, and in winter they skied in the mountains, covered with silvery snow. In town, during school-time, she helped the children with their little problems, helped her husband with his greater problems, and showed their friends and guests the same cheerful hospitality as before.
The eldest son had to go to college. So Birdy flew with him in a big air plane over the Ocean, brought him to college, and spoke with the professors. And when she said goodbye to Cress, she had tears in her eyes. But thought of the word of her father: We human beings must have the courage to live and to say goodbye.
One child after the other she brought to College, and she was an old lady with white hair. Her father had long since passed away. One morning, her husband was away on a business trip. She felt very lonesome. She looked out of the window and saw a little bird flying through the blue sky over the green woods and fields. And when she heard the bird singing, she thought “How strange! I must have heard this song long, long ago, perhaps even before my birth.” She tried to sing the melody, and her heart became very light. At that moment she heard a knock at the door. At once she knew who it was. “Come in!” She said. “I am ready.” And when Dr. Death entered the room, he saw Birdy’s body lying on the floor, and a little golden bird flying out of the window.
About the Author
Leslie Helm was born and raised in Yokohama, Japan, where his family has lived since 1869. He has worked as Tokyo correspondent for Business Week and the Los Angeles Times. It was during his years abroad that he adopted two Japanese children and began the research that would result in Yokohama Yankee. Helm is currently editor of Seattle Business magazine.
Leslie graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. in political science and an M.A. in Asian studies. He attended the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism on a U.S. Japan Friendship Commission fellowship. Helm is currently editor of Seattle Business magazine.