Saturday
28h May

The caged bird sings differently

I had been looking forward to moving to our new apartment, a twenty-minute walk from where we used to live in the center of Barcelona. It’s light and spacious on the ground floor of an elegant building from the beginning of the last century and it has a big terrace in the back.

I had one concern though: in our previous apartment I used to sit on our balcony around dusk and listen to the birds chirping, but I didn’t see any trees in the courtyard of our new building, and I was afraid there would be no bird singing for me to enjoy.

But I needn’t have worried, there are plenty of birds flying over and they twitter to their heart’s content as they soar through the air in broad circles.

 

Yesterday, while sitting on the terrace of our new home I noticed a warbling nearby and it took me a while to find out that it was a bird caged on the balcony of one of our upstairs neighbors.

I noticed how his singing was not like the spontaneous chatter of the birds flying over; he had a more mannered tone as if he wanted to please his listeners with trills, quavers, and high notes. It sounded a bit desperate.

 

Does he sing in such an affected way to show how domesticated he is as opposed to the birds up in the sky?

Does he perform in the hope that singing will eventually set him free? Or is the singing itself a call for freedom which might be why it sounds a bit forlorn?

 

Then again, I imagine that he was bought in a store and has never experienced flying through the sky. Can you miss something you've never known? Maybe the longing for freedom is inherent in all sentient beings like the longing for love, even if you’ve never experienced it.

 

Could it be that the caged bird is not aware of his restrictions and that he sings out loud to let everyone know how free he is?

 

I wondered if I too live in the delusion of flying free while not seeing the limitations that constrain me.

I started thinking about what those limitations might be. Could it be the sometimes-unrealistic standards I set for myself that tend to make me feel that I haven’t accomplished much?

Does the discipline with which I go about my daily endeavours border on rigidity?

What are the bars with which I’ve built my own cage?

 

When I emerged from my thoughts it had gotten dark, and the bird had stopped whistling.

I’ll sit on our terrace again tonight. Perhaps it will all sound differently to me then.

After all, interpreting bird songs is in the ear of the listener.