An artist receives a magical gift from some black birds.
Tags: magical realism

Black birds would greet me at the riverside, regulars as we were, reflected in the waters along with the clouds, moon, and stars. We had grown found of each other's echoes by chance, meeting at the edge. I admired their skill, soaring lifts caught under their wings, and the small rainbows living within their feathers. When the winds were unfavorable, they sat watching my hastening charcoal smudges doing a disservice to the distant clouds I tried to draw, and only ran off with the pressed loose pages sometimes. Most of all, they appreciated my understanding of which berries they preferred, so I brought them often. It was a small token for the company, I thought.

Then small piles of thread and sticks appeared by our favorite trees, followed by shells I've never seen. I made a habit of recounting the treasures from a velvet bag by the water's shallows, a new friend or two asking nicely for a piece back with a careful beak. Which, of course, please take the string, it's a lovely red. Yes, that particular twig is well shaped, I used it once as a ink tip to draw the moon's face.

When winter came, the berries faded, even from the furtherest edges of town, so I cut the smallest cured meats as a thank you. We went on like this, til spring, til summer, past the Sun's longest day. I had checked the tree branches only casually that day. Any gift they gave me was more than enough. It appeared as glass at first, tucked between hollows. A crescent, smoothed by the river I thought. Holding it against the sun shone soft wavering rainbows. A delight. Perhaps it was a moonstone. This is seemed fitting, though the weight seemed much lighter and clear against the air.

Placing it in the velvet dedicated to these treasures for later admiring, I only thought it a little strange how it seemed a hair smaller by firelight. Or smaller still in the morning. By the dusk it was a sliver, and I worried through all the tokens for the rest of its fragmented pieces. There was none. I grieved in the new moon's deep night when the sliver itself seemed gone. Definitely, I had placed it back in the bag.

For many days I could not bear to face the river. It had seemed an unusually good find, too nice to give away. How could I loose it. I wrapped ribbons around some larger pieces of meat to apologize. The birds would have fun pulling out the bows with great efficiency, then leave to weave nicer nests.

I met the river like usual, wading into cold beneath warm light, clouds rolling above, stretching out for a long lazy day. The elaborate gifts were placed on the raised river rocks. A few relationships were momentarily threatened in eagerness, and younger birds needed help finding a piece of their own. When the meats were gone, I emptied the velvet's treasures into my lap for their inspection. The crescent, in a larger curve than before, appeared among them. I lifted it, too relieved to be confused, watching soft rainbows flowing through like before. I showed it to the younger friends, who called out all around. A few came to take it, a few ruffled away, but in the end the rainbows were simply admired as I rolled the clear piece between my fingers.

I showed them again and again, each day by the riverside. Enough times to notice the clouds bending down, the water raising up, the crescent slowly growing to an oval. I traced its shape on waterstained pages of my journal, over and over, until the moon made its self known. Certainly, no matter how its form appeared to me, it was always whole. The full moon told me softly, showing itself a perfect circle, that I held something like the sky in my hand. Flatter than usual, bright enough to catch the eye across the room, beaming quietly.

Through it I could see clouds crisp against even the twilight. The moon itself seemed to bloom in definition, delighted I had found a piece. The hills looked more like mountains, and ever after I could still notice them with a tilt of the head or the roll of the river waters. I drew these too, following gently with the rolling shape of the moon's lens as a guide. I could never look in all directions, so I simply chose one, and then another, until the landscape filled out in contradictions before me.

A few slick areas of the river bed told me the lens was not something that could be dropped. Even when I fell face first into the water, it hung neatly where my hand left it. This was true anywhere, next to my nightstand, in the windowsill, by the cup of morning coffee. Black birds found its amusement only passing. Perhaps lingering in the air was too normal for them. I placed it before my eye whenever I needed to see a little clearer, book open with scratching lines of shapes that were there, somewhere, in the distance.

And it was here, lingering beneath the river in full moon light, I met you again for the first time, caught into seeing through the scattering of wings too surprised by the low sight of you.

I had drawn you so many times before, but still, it was a new beauty to meet you in this way. Beneath moonlight and memory, how many times will I climb this riverside view worried I may never to catch sight of you again. How many times will you and the moon meet me, always coming, staying, leaving.

Again and again, until you'll miss me first one day, but this you can not say, for we have no words to reach, only a gaze to share while we wade through our rivers.