The Magpie is Australia's Bird of the Year, narrowly defeating the Ibis in second place and poor old kookaburra in third. I do happen to love magpies, they often to drop in for a visit. Sometimes if we are up late they stand at the back door and sing for their breakfast.
This is a Magpie story I wrote some years ago.
The Magpie’s Song
Once upon a spring time, this story and a song were hatched.
As three magpie chicks pecked through their shells and spilled into their nest, it was apparent, even to the dimwitted parents that while their first two hatchlings were perfectly ordinary magpies, there was something extra ordinary about the third hatchling…and as the third chick grew feathers… her beauty became apparent for all to see. With feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight, they named her Mirrabooka, after the stars in the night sky.
And so it was that Mirrabooka grew into a bird of spectacular beauty. While the other magpie chicks were learning to catch food and build nests, Mirra was kept in the nest and taught how to preen. Mirra longed to hunt and fly like the other young birds but her parents were only concerned with her appearance so Mirra, with feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight stayed in the nest and preened.
Long after all the all other chicks had left the nest, Mirra’s parents persuaded her to stay behind, so they could bask in the glory of their daughter’s beauty. They even continued feeding Mirra so that her time could be better spent preening.
One day, when Mirra’s parents were sitting on the ground discussing which angle was best for viewing her beauty, a couple of neighbourhood cats pounced on the dimwitted birds and gobbled them all up. Alone in the nest, Mirra preened tears of sadness into her feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight.
Mirra was terribly lonely and she was very, very hungry. The only skill Mirra knew was preening and preening did not fill her belly. Eventually loneliness and hunger drove Mirra from the nest, but her flying was feeble and her hunting skills poor. Mirra called to the other Magpies but they thought her vain and they left her alone. Each night Mirra, with feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight returned to her nest to preen, hungrier and lonelier than the day before.
On the third day Mirra woke to find a scruffy, old magpie sitting in her tree. His feathers were grey rather than black and white and they weren’t smooth and sleek like Mirra’s but sticking out at rather odd angles. The old bird cocked his head and sang. Despite his appearance he had a fine strong voice and Mirra, with feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight listened and preened as the old bird sang.
He sang of flight and beating wings,
Of long fast glides on freezing winds.
He sang of practice and determination,
Skillful maneuvers through hanging branches.
He sang of flying for pure joy,
Of reaching heights only gods enjoy.
Then Mirra with feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight, beat her wings and flew. She flew for the learning, she flew for the yearning and she flew for the sheer joy of being a bird.
The next morning Mirra was delighted to find the old magpie still sitting in her tree. Mirra, with feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight listened and preened as he began to sing again.
He sang of worms and early morning,
Foraging for food under leaves fallen.
He sang of patience and keen sight,
Of creeping danger and delectable delight.
He sang of hunting as employ,
Of feeding his soul with pure joy.
Then Mirra with feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight, beat her wings and flew and hunted. She hunted for hunger, she hunted in wonder and she hunted for the sheer joy of being a bird.
The following day, after filling her belly, Mirra looked to find the old bird still in her tree. So Mirra, with feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight, listened and preened as he began to sing again.
He sang of friends and companionship,
Of lasting ties and fellowship.
He sang of friends won and lost,
Of what he gained and what it cost.
He sang of care and company,
Mutual respect and harmony.
Then Mirra with feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight realised that though the old magpie’s voice was strong and clear, his body was old and his eyes weak, and so she flew and hunted then she shared her food for fellowship, and the sheer joy of companionship.
In the cool of the morning Mirra, with feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight listened and preened as the old bird began to sing once more.
Love & Family
He sang of passion and of love,
Of sweet young partners long since gone.
He sang of romance and delight,
Of responsibility and sacrifice.
He sang of families he loved best,
Of joy and sorrow and empty nests.
Then Mirra looked at the old Magpie and saw his eyes growing dim. As a cold wind blew up and swirled around them she stretched her wing and sheltered him with feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight. Together they perched in companionable silence while the winter storm raged around them.
In the morning, Mirra listened… but there was no song, her tree was empty. Below the tree, she found the old magpie, as cold as the frozen winter earth. Then Mirra, with feathers black as midnight and feather whiter than starlight flew down and kept vigil, preening the old bird’s feathers with her tears.
As the golden light of the next day dawned, Mirra felt an unfamiliar pressure building…building, building in her chest. Feeling like her heart would burst, Mirra, with feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight gave her friend a parting caress and then took to the sky.
Up and up, she flew, higher and further than she had ever flown before. Mirra flew over gardens and towns, rivers and lakes, over valleys and plains and she flew to the highest mountain and there her chest burst open… and out flew a song;
Hopes & Dreams
And she sang of her friend and his life so swift,
Of her profound love and his great gift.
She sang of her joy and of her sorrow,
Of her hopes and dreams, for tomorrow.
She sang of a young bird lost and alone,
And a friend who found her heart and home.
Mirra sang from the depth and the breadth of her heart and when at last her song was done; she found to her surprise, another Magpie listening. He was a fine, handsome bird. Mirra looked down at her own feathers...she couldn’t remember the last time she had preened. Her feathers were scruffy and dull, but he didn’t see her feathers, he saw Mirra, with heart brighter than sunlight, and heart softer than moonlight …and together they sang:
Love & Joy
And they sang of love fresh and new,
Like mountain streams and morning dew.
They sang of happiness, joy profound,
Of hopes and dreams in each other found.
They sang of life and building nests
And they sang of an old magpie, who was heaven sent.
A heart to heart blog on life, spirituality, storytelling & stories.