The Oak and the Jay
Chirp! Chirp! Chirp!
I groaned as I unfurled my head from my lush arms to face the bright beam of spring, waking from my sleep. I took a deep breath which shuttered my trunk stirring three baby birds that squeaked and twittered in reply to my awakening. “Hallo!”
I realized a beautiful Steller’s jay perched delicately on one of my old gnarled branches.
“Good morning mister!” she squawked playfully, her deep blue plumage shimmering in the sun. I smiled. Young creatures were always full of energy. “You have been sleeping for a long time you minster!”
“I was dormant during the winter my friend,” I explained, my ancient voice passed through the breeze, “If I do not shut off to the world, the harsh weather will eat into my soul and I shall surly die.”
Processing what I said, the curious Jay skipped and hopped among my knotted twigs towards her babies, gobbling up a slowly inching caterpillar on her way. She suddenly stopped in her tracks.
“Oops. That was for my babies...” she murmured unenthusiastically.
I laughed a deep laugh which shuttered my elemental frame all the way to the roots. Defiantly, the stubborn Jay glared at me and I chuckled harder.
“My friend, do you have a name?” I asked.
She glowered at me, Mohawk pointed sharply , “Who doesn’t have a name?”
“Hmm, perhaps I do not.”
“WhAt?!?” she shrieked, “How can someone so old be nameless??”
Old? Nameless? My sombre sigh vibrated the sky; this adolescent creature had long ways to go. It was her first brood and she was already doing a poor job on keeping those squeaking mouths fed. “Someone as old as I do not record time. We live in the moment, rooting deeper into the Earth as also in understanding of it.”
The Steller cocked a head at me, “What does that mean? Gah, such thoughtful talk boggles my brain.”
“You have one?” I snickered jokingly.
The enraged bird cursed angrily at me, “Hey, you realize we probably need to get along if I’m going to raise my children here! We’ve started off on the wrong track buddy and we barely know each other.”
I pondered that statement for a few moments which froze the air around me, “Does that not mean we cannot start on a fresh slate”
“Ugh, you’re a weirdo. Trying to get my personal information such as asking my name.”
I struck an injured tone, “Why, you suggested it yourself. I agree, we barely know each other, so what’s to lose if we do?”
“To get you out of my face I’ll tell you what you want.”
I purposely shook a branch in her direction and she went wild, cursing and pecking furiously at my hardy bark. I roared in laughter. “Quit that! It tickles!”
“It shouldn’t tickle, it should HURT!” the wilful animal protested.
I grinned, “You remind me of Stella. Looks just like you.”
“Stella was my mom,” she declared, “My name is Jayda. Daughter of Stella. There you go. Happy now?”
“You are just like her. Stubborn, zealous, willful... the memories live inside me.” I thought back at the days when a handsome infantile Jay took refuge in my brambles one summer after being blown from her roost as she was learning to fly. I sheltered her with my budding foliage and fed her with my plentiful acorns. I was her guardian, protecting her from all harms till the day her physical form deceased.
Jayda nodded in approval, “Yes, yes, normally you wouldn’t find a jay nesting in an oak, but my mother instead chose to grow up in one of those wretched things.”
“Oh Jayda,” I moaned, “We have long ways to go.”
“Long ways to go,” she squawked back.
“At least let me help you with your rowdy little babies,” I suggested pulling down a branch starting to produce hard green acorns towards the intractable bird who reluctantly took my invitation.
Years passed and the two of us formed an unexplainable bond. There were thousands of other creatures living in my protection, but out of all of them, who would expect me to befriend a bird who doesn’t ‘belong’ in an oak? We were closer than the wind is to the sky but acted as if we despised each other.
“You block head idiot!!” Jayda screamed at me, troubling her second brood into a fit of cries.
“Don’t blame me you whiney wart, Jayda. How can I fix your bad memory? If you hide acorns in a spot and forget, what do I have to do with it? Plus, who would know you’d have another brood? Your species typically have one in their life,” I complained irritably.
Pecking at my growing buds, ripping them to shreds, Jayda hopped around in circles above her nest, hopelessly trying to remember where her cache was.
I groaned as I noticed a disgusting fruittree leafroller inching up my bark, “Caterpillars are out, why can you not feed off of them?”
Jayda made weird choking sounds, “I w i l l n e v e r e a t t h o s e m u s h y g r e e n t h i n g s E V E R a g a i n!! EW!!”
“What do you mean?” I asked, “Remember when you ate that little caterpillar that was meant for your babies?”
The little bird turned into an infuriated fluffy blue ball of rage, cursing and swearing at me.
Making the situation worse, I probed her, “My, my isn’t miss little blue bird in a bad mood?”
“DON’T YOU DARE CALL ME BLUE BIRD YOU CRUSTY DRIED RAISIN!!” Jayda spat out. I noticeably cringed under that packed insult.
“So,” the daunting creature threatened, “there is an insult that will get through your thick shell.”
With that, she threw that cruel word around weeks until my acorns grew for her to eat.
“It’s raininggggg and I’m getting all wet in my nesttttt,” Jayda whined over and over.
I rolled my head, “If you didn’t rip those leaves you would’ve stayed nice and dry, but NOOO you didn’t and that’s not my fault. I cannot do anything to fix your ignorance.”
By then, when the acorns were edible, Jayda’s second brood grew from nestlings to fledglings to juvenile birds ready to experience the world without my careful supervision.
One humid summer morning, Jayda flapped down onto the thick mossy branch she called the ‘talking stool’, it was the only place she could sit to know it was listening to her, although I was always listening to her no matter what.
“Hay mister,” she chirped one cloudy morning. Thankfully, she seemed to be in a good mood, but I didn’t want to push it because she could be easily triggered into a temper tantrum.
“Good morning my friend,” I replied, taking a deep breath in, swirling the air around me. I flinched. Something didn’t smell right. Sensing my distress, Jayda cocked her head in the direction of the unusual smell.
“Smoke,” she confirmed, “I’ll be back.” With that, she descended into the sky to investigate the strong fume. I waited for her to return. Hours turned into days, which turned into weeks. As each second passed I started to get more worried and nervous. Why was she taking so long?
“Breeze?” I call out hopefully.
“What do you need my young beautiful child?” Breeze whispered, her voice the sound of sandpaper grating against a smooth stone.
I mournfully sighed, “Do you know where Jayda is?”
She giggled, a sound of splashing waves followed after her laugh, “That silly tempered, but magnificent bird?”
I nodded. Moving swiftly through my foliage, Breeze flew passed me, creating an invisible orchestra consisting of rattling leaves and hoarse scratching sounds. A minute passed and my friend returned to me. “She should arrive faster than the sea reaches the other side of the world.”
I smiled trying to process what she was trying to explain, “Thank you.”
“Always my friend,” her presence engulfed me with a feeling of my own shelter and safety.
“Do you know what kept her up?” curiosity bit at my nerves.
“Oh,” Breeze said as if remembering something, “there were many hairless apes with moving metal beginning to come in your direction. They will most likely come across you as fast as the waves travel through the sea. Jayda was taking as long as the rainbow formed across the desolate field, sure to remember what she saw.”
Breeze always spoke in a eccentric but soothing manner. She never explained anything as it was but twisted them into words of poetry.
Sure enough, Jayda returned ‘as soon as the rainbow formed across a desolate field’ on a black clouded summer day. As soon as she landed on the talking stool, she coughed and coughed and coughed. Fear shrouded the edges of her frantic eyes.
“My friend!” I exclaimed, “You have returned!”
“Mister!” she choked out, “Men are coming with huge machines! They’re destroying the fields a little way from here, but are coming closer by the second! You’re the only tree so magnificent and great on this field they haven’t chopped so I don’t know what they’re going to do with you. Mister, I’m scared…”
“Why should you be afraid?” I asked as I noticed the smoke rising from a distance.
Jayda bobbed her Mohawk, “The fields beyond here are demolished into ruins now. Surely they won’t let an ancient tree stop their terrible work!”
“Do not worry my friend,” I comforted her, “just fly far from here and come back when you’re sure they have finished their work. You’re frail lungs cannot keep up in this environment.”
“I would never leave you to whatever may happen! If I’ve lived this far with you, how could you expect me to leave your side? You’ve helped me through the worse and it’s my turn to do that same,” Jayda protested hopefully.
“What you can do for me, is save yourself. If you’re to go to the same place I will go, what has my protection for all these years done in the end if you decide to throw your breath away?” I replied calmly.
For the first time, I saw tears welling up in my friend’s glossy black eyes. “I’d rather die with you then continue life without your comforting presence,” Jayda cried desperately as a fit of coughs shocked her body like a pulsing electric current.
“I do not understand little one,” I whispered, “I will always be with you no matter what.” I lifted a wimpy branch and placed it on her feathered breast, “In there, no one can every keep us apart from each other. Not even death itself because our friendship is stronger than anything.” By now, I could hear the distant yell of men. Sweat, smoke and fuel now filled the air thick humid air.
“Jayda. Please. Leave.” I pleaded as my children evacuated from my care, squirrels, butterflies, sparrows all fled in terror.
“NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” she shrieked louder than every time she cursed and screeched at me combined.
The sky started to cry with thunder and Breeze gently blew Jayda from her branch.
“PLEASE, NO!!!! DON’T DO THIS TO ME!!!!” she screamed as she opened her wings to keep herself from toppling to the ground, but the wind caught under her, and pulled her farther and farther away from my sheltering arms.
I wearily locked my gaze with her, “You’re only doing this to yourself my friend. I love you Jayda.”
“NO! NO!!” her hopeless sobs were carried away with the gale as the deafening sound of men separated our physical forms forever. I suddenly felt a huge sting ripping into my side accompanied with the sound of violent grating. I reached my branches towards the sky and I saw that the black clouds opened up so accept me so I closed my tired eyes. I love you Jayda.
Five years passed when a weary old jay arrived stumbling in her flight to the same spot where a giant tree stump lay. Two younger Steller Jays trailed after her, but didn’t perch on the trunk with their mother, and instead flew off. The elderly bird hung her head as if she had some connection with the stump.
“Mister?” the saddened bird murmured hoarsely, “you remember me? They finished building and I came back. Like you told me so.”
She waited a few moments for a reply, but nothing happened. She chuckled a down laugh then started to wheeze, “I thought so.”
She slowly lay beside the stump on the grass as tears trickled down her cheek, “Oh Mister, what would I do without you?”
Her last words came out, barely a whisper.
“You know what? I love you too.”
The two other birds returned with exuberant flowers an hour later, and when they saw their mother, they mourned quietly. Afterwards, carefully, they arranged the flowers around her and the stump where the memories of the two friends played vividly in their dreams, but the two of them were together again, in a place where there is only happiness and no suffering.
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