Cerowyn Browne: The Happiness Bird
The happiness bird is a beautiful bird. She has a gorgeous plumage that, at first glance, appears yellow but, if you look long enough, is full of every colour you can imagine, with glittering golds, warm oranges and peaceful greens. Her long wings are powerful and, if you are lucky enough to ride on her back, she can take you up, up, up till you feel you could touch the sun or swoop low over calm lakes as your feet dangle in the cool water.
When I was young, I would ride regularly on the back of the happiness bird. As I played in my room alone, she would take me to other worlds and show me the magical people there. As I ran through the fields and forests, she would fly over me. As I curled up with my mother on the sofa, she would lay her wings across me. But slowly I began to see her less and less. I didn’t even notice it at first, but then one day I realised it had been a very long time since I had felt the excitement of her beating wings. I began to look around for her desperately everywhere I went; overturning every stone, asking every person if they had seen her and even reading books about the best ways to find her. Eventually, as I was sharing my tale with a friend I saw a shimmer of yellow from the corner of my eye! I dropped everything and ran after the beautiful creature.
I soon lost sight of the happiness bird but I kept going, determined to catch her up. Every now and then I would see a flick of a golden wing and would speed up. My journey was long and tough, I climbed mountains, waded through streams and battled through thick jungles. Sometimes there was torrential rain and I would be soaked to the bone, cold and homesick. Sometimes fog would descend and I would be unable to see even one metre ahead of me. I would feel numb and lose all sense of direction and purpose. Sometimes there would be a storm and the lightening striking the trees around me would fill me with fear and panic. Sometimes however, the day would be bright and glorious. I would find a beautiful feather on the ground and would know I was on the right track, although to my dismay the feathers soon faded to grey without their owner.
One sunny day, as I was trekking up a particularly steep mountain, I thought I saw the happiness bird and ran forwards towards the glint of yellow. However, when I reached it, I realised it was not a feather but rather the petals of a beautiful flower. Frustrated that it was not what I had hoped, I kicked at the flower and some of its gentle petals fell to the ground. Realising what I had done, I knelt down and straightened out the remaining petals, marvelling at how soft they were. I picked up the ones I had knocked to the floor and looked closely at them, at the tiny veins running along the translucent silk. I felt a gust of wind and the stroke of feathers across my shoulder. Turning I saw the happiness bird swooping low over my head. I jumped up and sped after her, tumbling over rocks as she led me higher up the mountain. I had to run just to keep sight of her and several times I tripped but, ignoring the cuts on my knees and hands, I would push myself up and keep going. Try as I might I couldn’t get any closer to her. Soon clouds descended and all I could see was her blurry outline up ahead. Eventually, out of breath and exhausted, I collapsed, the tears streaming down my face matched by the rain now pouring from the sky. I lay there, defeated and lonely, curled up on my side, my eyes tight shut.
After a while the rain stopped and I slowly opened my eyes. Just in front of my face was another beautiful yellow flower. I stared at it for a few moments before noticing there was another one just a little way behind it. They looked like they had thrived in the rain, thick droplets rolled off them and they were strong despite also being delicate. Then I noticed a third one just to the right of the second, and before long I was looking round in amazement; between all the rocks were thousands of flowers. Some were like the yellow one I had first seen, but some were bigger, some smaller, and there were many different colours. I stood up and stepped between them, looking round in wonder, as the gentle breeze made them sway and played softly on my cheek. I heard the tinkling of water and climbed around a large rock to see a bright brook jumping and playing as it made its way down the mountain. I followed it upstream to a place where the water made a leap of faith. It plunged off a high lip of rock down to the pool below, creating a shimmering sheet. The pool was deep and clear and I could see fish swimming amongst the stones. I knelt down by the pool and, using my hands as a bowl, took gulps, quenching a deep thirst I had not realised I had. Then I started to wash my cuts and grazes and took off my shoes and socks to dangle my feet in the water. The coldness stung but felt invigorating… as though it somehow left me just a bit more alive than I was before.
Soon though, I realised I had to keep moving to get warm again. Carrying my shoes, I made my way across the pool, by some stones along the edge, and continued walking. My bare feet felt the tickle of soft grass between my toes. I realised that, since being by the pool, the clouds had cleared and now I could see a long way ahead of me. Before I had always looked forwards, but now I looked left, at the mountainside covered in rocks and flowers, and right, where I could see across the deep valley to other mountains which looked both wonderful and terrifying. I turned all the way around and, looking backwards, I could see my path, winding its way up from the valley below. I couldn’t believe I had come so far, climbed up so many rocks and waded through so many rivers. I felt overwhelmed with a sense of pride, and of my own strength, which throbbed in my body through my aching muscles. I turned around and kept walking, looking at all the flowers around me and watching butterflies and bees make their way from one to another. My feet ached, my cuts hurt and I was very tired but I didn’t feel overpowered by that anymore. I knew why I felt that way, because I had seen the journey I had been on, and I knew that it was worth it because around me was a beautiful landscape, one I had so long ignored. I would make sure that I never ignored it again.
After a while, I turned to look back but I couldn’t see because something was in my way. I was confused at first and then I realised what it was.
Sitting lightly on my shoulder was the happiness bird.