A little bird sat on a little tree by a little pond on a little cliff on the side of a big mountain high above the clouds, looking out over the horizon and feeling very special. She had everything she could ever want—her little tree, her little pond, her little cliff, and her big, big mountain, whom she loved very much. But the little bird, who spent every day gazing far away over the field of clouds, sometimes wondered why the world was so wide and so open, and yet still so small.
She could see nothing beyond the mountain but colors—from the burning orange at the edge of the clouds to the rich, blue blackness in the very crown of the sky, scattered through with a cluster of brilliant stars. The little bird knew that she was more than a color herself, and she was not a little tree, or a little pond, or a little cliff, let alone a big, big mountain high above the clouds. So what was she?
And then, as if to answer, a little leaf fell from the branch of the little tree. The wind rushing down from the top of the mountain carried the leaf and twirled it across the pond and out over the cliff, where it caught the light of the sun and then dipped into the clouds. The little bird tilted her head to one side, hopped down from her little tree, flitted across her little pond, and stood at the edge of her little cliff, looking at the place where the leaf had been, and wondered what it was like where the leaf was now. Were the colors different there? Was there another little bird staring at her own big sky, on the other top of the mountain, below those clouds? The bird grew curious.
“I am afraid to go,” she told the mountain.
“Why?” asked the mountain.
“What if there is no little tree?” asked the little bird in response.
“There are so many trees,” said the mountain.
“I do not want to leave my little pond,” said the bird.
“There are so many ponds,” said the mountain.
“But I would miss this cliff, and I would miss you,” said the little bird to the big, big mountain.
“I am there, too,” said the mountain, “and I am always here.”
“If I fly into the clouds, will you protect the tree, and the pond, and cliff? Will you keep them safe for me?” asked the bird.
“I will keep them safe, this little tree, this little pond, and this little cliff, for both of us—so that you can fly home to them, and so that I will always remember this day with you,” said the mountain.
The bird looked out over the clouds as the little cluster of stars stretched out to the horizon. She thought of her little tree, with all its leaves, but one. She thought of the ripples on her little pond, and the how it changed colors in concert with the night sky. She felt the cliff under her feet and the breeze at her back. She closed her eyes and remembered it all.
“I love you, mountain,” said the little bird, as she hopped out over the edge of the cliff. Held aloft by the wind from the top of the mountain, she flew in a long, looping spiral beneath the stars and slipped into the clouds for the first time in her little life. For a moment, she wondered what the leaf had asked of its tree before it flew away. And then, all at once, she burst through to the other side of the sky.
And from up above the clouds, where the little tree sat by a little pond on a little cliff, and all the way down to the forests and oceans and cities and deserts that sprawled out beneath it, the big, big mountain whispered back, “I love you, little bird.”