by Texas Belle
Ever wonder why a mockingbird doesn't sing the same song? So did William....
| In the woods, not far from William's house, lived a Native American who went by the name Adawehi. William loved Adawehi because of the stories he told and because no matter what question William asked, Adawehi answered. He was the first adult ever to consider all of William's questions as "good questions." Adawehi was also very smart, not just because he knew everything, but because sometimes he asked questions in such a way, that William himself was able to produce the answer. Adawehi was wonderful, wonderfully wise and very, very old. Adawehi knew everything because he had lived life for so long. It was this belief and trust in the ageless man that brought William to him today.
William had a question that was burning a hole through him. It took all he had to keep from running out of his science class this morning in search of the answer. As he ran across the meadow to the wood where his friend lived, he was filled with unbelievable excitement. Adawehi always treated his questions like a special gift. Sometimes he would take a long time to unwrap the answer and this would cause William to burst with joy when the answer was finally exposed. Sometimes Adawehi would tear into the answer like William with a birthday present, and they would turn the answer this way and that discovering all the possibilities. It made for a great day.
William slowed his running slightly to avoid the trees and undergrowth, but his heart didn't slow. His anticipation didn't slow down either because this was a great question. This was the best question ever. Finally, he saw the cabin of Adawehi. William did not see his friend at first, and guessed that the old man must be in the back tending his garden. Adawehi loved planting and growing things. William remembered a story Adawehi told about plants and weeds that helped him solve a problem he was having at school. As he ran to the back of the cabin, he caught sight of his friend and called his name.
"Adawehi, o-si-yo," he cried the traditional greeting with delight.
"O-si-yo, atsuts," Adawehi called back.
William slowed to a walk, trying to catch his breath and organize his thoughts. He noticed the wise man's timeless features. Skin so tanned by years of exposure that it hid the signs of age, and thick white hair falling past his strong broad shoulders. William noticed, too, that whether Adawehi walked, or just stood still, he was as straight as an arrow. He reminded William of a tree, a great tree.
"What brings you to me today, o-gi-na-li-i?" asked Adawehi. He broke into a warm smile.
"A question, Adawehi!" William blurted. He rushed on, "A question that even my teacher couldn't answer!"
Adawehi stopped hoeing and watched his pupil walk toward him. William’s blue eyes flashed with excitement.
"This is very serious, William," Adawehi's face furrowed with concern. "Yes, this is very serious. Teachers know many things. I'm not sure I can answer such a question," he replied with just a hint of a smile on his lips. William ran up to his friend and gave him a hug.
"Oh, yes you can, because you know everything!"
William looked up into Adawehi's warm brown eyes. The old man put his hand on William's blonde head and tousled his hair.
"The man who knows everything knows nothing, atsuts."
"Did you learn that from your wise man when you were a boy?"
"No, a fortune cookie." They both laughed.
"Now," Adawehi continued, "what is this question that has no answer?"
"Today, in science class," William began, "we were studying birds and stuff." Adawehi walked toward the back of the cabin. William followed close behind, relating the story to his friend.
"Oh, birds are wonderful creatures." Adawehi stopped and looked to the sky. "Very beautiful to see and just as beautiful to hear. I know many things about birds, but 'stuff?' I don't think I know about 'stuff,'" he chuckled. William rolled his eyes but laughed. He loved the way Adawehi liked to tease and make jokes.
"No, it not about 'stuff'; it's about birds."
"Then you may continue," Adawehi said as he washed his hands in an outside basin and dried them.
"My teacher said that all birds have their own distinct song."
"This is true. Let us walk in the woods and you will hear some of them." He said as he walked into the cabin and quickly returned with a little pouch and a canteen.
As they walked, the wise man began to identify some birdcalls. William listened carefully to the sounds. Some of the songs were obviously different others were not. He wasn't sure whether he could correctly identify them if he heard them later.
"Now that you've heard the different voices of our little brothers and sisters, what is your question?"
They came to a clearing where a tree had fallen and they both sat down. Adawehi opened the pouch as they shared the canteen.
"Well, the teacher said that the mockingbird doesn't have its own song, and that it only repeats a sound or song, AND only repeats in a four-tone pattern. How is that possible?" It was out there now and William felt the great weight lift from him. He now stared intently at Adawehi.
"This is a good question, atsuts," answered his mentor slowly. The old man paused and slowly took out his small pocketknife. In silence, he began to cut an apple into small wedges.
"Can you answer it?" For the first time William was not sure that his friend would be able to answer a question. Adawehi took another drink and was silent for a few moments.
"Among the Real People, people of my tribe, there is such a story, " he finally answered. William smiled the gift was being unwrapped.
"In the beginning time, the Great Spirit, He-Who-Made-All-Things, decided to visit this world. When He came to this world, He saw that everything was gray and white. There was no color at all. The Great Spirit did not think this was such a good thing. He went back to His place in the sky behind the sun. He call His Spirit Messenger and told her to come to this world and tell all living things that they would be allowed to choose how they would be known. They would choose how they would look and how they would sound. The Great Spirit would hear them all, but they must all decide before the sun set on the fourth day.
"Great excitement filled the world. All of the trees and plants came to He-Who-Made-All-Things and told Him how they wished to look. Some chose to be green in the Springtime and to burst into color of fire in the Fall. Some wanted to keep their beautiful green leaves all through the year, so that the earth could enjoy the beauty of color even in the bitter winter. Some plants wanted to be small with tiny flowers; others wanted to be large bushes. He-Who-Made-All-Things heard the voices of the animals, of those who wanted to live in lakes, rivers, or the great oceans' fish that wanted to be bright and flashy, some who wanted to be large. He heard the desires of the animals that wanted to live in the mountains and valleys, of those who wanted to live in the vast deserts.
"By the end of the third day, the Great Spirit had heard from most of the creatures who roamed this world. He looked around Him and was very pleased with what He saw. This world was filled with many beautiful colors and sounds. As He started to return to His in the sky behind the sun, He noticed the birds of the sky. Of all the animals He had created, He loved these little feathered ones the best. This was, of course, before the time that He created the Real People.
“ ‘Little birds,’ the Great Spirit called, ‘tomorrow will be your day.’ The sun then lowered itself so that the Great Spirit could return to His place.
“The next morning found He-Who-Made-All-Things answering the requests of His favorite creatures. Raven came forward and asked for feathers as black as a moonless night and a call that would demand the respect of all birds. His quality did not matter as long as all could hear him. Next came Peacock who wanted feathers that displayed many colors and that would fan out for all to see. This is how it went; brash calls and sweet tunes, bold colors and gentle hues. The sky was filled with color and sound. The ground was filled with birds running as fast as the flowing streams. The Great Spirit laughed out loud with joy. The thunder of His laughter rolled across the sky.
“As the sun traveled across the sky, the Spirit Messenger noticed that one bird was not there, Hu-Hu, the one you call the mockingbird. The Spirit Messenger quickly went to search for the little bird because the fourth day was coming to an end. She searched everywhere for Hu-Hu. It was made more difficult because he loved to fly; not just flying from tree to tree but special flying, dipping and turning, flying high and swooping down. Yes, the little bird love d the sky and the feel of the warm sun on his feathers.
“ ‘Hu-Hu!’ called the Spirit Messenger. At the sound of his name, Hu-Hu flew to the very top of a tree. He also liked to fly to the top of trees.
‘Who is it that calls me?’
‘Little bird, you must hurry. The day is almost over and you must go to the Great Sprit,’ the Spirit Messenger hurriedly explained.
‘No! Has it really been four days?’
‘Yes, little bird, you must go quickly or it will be too late!’ At that the little gray bird hurriedly flew to the place where He-Who-Made-All-Things sat but He was returning to His place behind the sun when Hu-Hu arrived.
‘Great Spirit!’ the little bird called out, ‘I am here! Do not go!’
‘Who is it that calls me back?’ He could not see who called out. Finally, He looked down and there in the failing light, He saw a little gray bird.
‘It is I, the one called Hu-Hu,’ he rushed on, ‘I am here for my song and my color!’
“He-Who-Made-All-Things looked down at the little bird and frowned.
‘The time has come to an end, Hu-Hu,’ He explained, ‘I have given all of the songs and colors away. You should have come when I called. You are too late,’ with that He turned to leave.
‘Please! Oh, please, Great Spirit, do not leave!’ The little bird began to cry.
“The other birds came forward when they heard Hu-Hu cry. The Spirit Messenger also came when she heard the plaintive cries.
‘It is true, Great Spirit,’ the little bird began, ‘it is my fault that I was not here. The sky was so beautiful and the sun shone so brightly that I could not help but fly with joy. As the days progressed, I looked down and saw the beautiful wildflowers spring forth with such colors. The more I saw, the more joy I felt, and the more joy I felt the more I had to fly.’ When Hu-Hu finished, he bowed his head and wept softly.
‘It is true, Great Spirit, he loves to fly!’ Exclaimed several birds.
‘He can make us all laugh when he plays in the sky,’ added Sparrow.
Robin said, ‘And it’s exciting to see him fly to the highest branches!’
“The Great Spirit smiled, ‘It is important to find joy and to bring joy in this life; however, the time has passed.’
Raven came forward and said, ‘Great Spirit, what if all of the birds would be willing to give Hu-Hu a piece of each of their songs?”
Meadowlark heartily agreed, ‘this is a good plan. Would it be possible?’
‘This is a very unusual request,’ replied the Great Spirit, ‘It would be possible but all must agree. Would all of you be willing to give this little bird a piece of your song?’ This world erupted in such a cacophony of agreement that the sky was once again filled with the Great Spirit’s laughter.
‘It is very good that you will all help one of your own in this way. However, you may only have four notes from each bird because it is not your song you will sing.’
“One by one the birds came forward and gave four notes to Hu-Hu. By now the moon had come from its home to light the night sky. Finally, the last bird had given the little gray bird her notes.
‘Now, little Hu-Hu, try out your new voice,’ the Great Spirit said.
“This world grew silent as all eyes turned toward him and they waited. Hu-Hu paused, took a deep breath, and sang. He sounded beautiful. It was as if all of the birds had come to live in one home.
“Before long all of the other birds joined Hu-Hu and his joyous song. Soon he was flying high in the sky, joyfully singing his songs. Each one was different, yet they were all his own.
‘Little Hu-Hu,’ called the Great Spirit, “Come here!’ Little Hu-Hu flew down and landed at His feet.
“It is because of the love of your fellow birds and the happiness that your flying brings me that you were given a song,’ those His voice was gentle, His face was stern and unyielding.
‘However, the time has passed and you will have to remain the color you are now. Those who may not know you for your color will always know you as the little gray bird who mocks the others.’ With those words the Great Spirit, He-Who-Made-All-Things, returned to His place behind the sun.
They sat quietly for a while.
“Does that answer your question, o-gi-na-li-I?”
William found himself pulled back into reality.
“Yes, Adawehi, that was great!”
“Now, look in that tree,” he pointed to an oak tree, “the Great Spirit sent us a gift.” From the highest branch a mockingbird perched, singing its borrowed songs.
They broke into laughter and started back to the cabin.