Long ago there was a once a tiny village nestled in the mountains of Japan. In this village there was a middle aged man who was very unhappy. One day he was out walking when he noticed a bird that was trying to fly but could not because its wing was injured. Seeing the desperation in the bird’s eyes the man took pity on it and took it back to his village. He nursed the bird for many weeks and eventually he taught it to fly again. When he let the bird go it flew into the sky and said to him “You have shown selflessness and respect to me, and for that I will grant a gift that will bring you great happiness.” As the bird flew away the man pondered what would the gift be. Many months passed by and on the ninth month the man’s wife gave birth to a girl more beautiful than any other. The man was ecstatic and lived for 15 happy years until he and his wife both died peaceful deaths. However their deaths were unpleasant for the now young woman as she was poor and needed to find a suitor or starve to death. Her eldest brother took her around Japan for many years, searching for someone worthy to hold his younger sister. This was to no avail, as no one would treat her with enough care to ever be loved by her. Eventually they returned to the village and found a man waiting for them. The man was nearly twenty years her senior. He was the son of a great warrior and had served in many battles himself. Being the eldest son, he had inherited his father’s entire estate and could live without work for the rest of his life. However he believed himself more than twice as superior as women and would never allow the young woman any freedom in his home. The brother was tired of searching and reluctantly agreed to have his sister married. The young woman was upset. She did not want to marry a man who would control her and keep her from the outside world, but the life she would live would be rich and free of worry and strife. As she thought hard about the way her life had turned she slipped into a very deep and dark depression, just like her father. To clear her head she went walking through the woods and came across the bird her father saved many years ago. The bird, sensing the cloudiness in her heart, approached her and said to her “You are a woman not only of great beauty but of a pure heart as well. I will grant you the gift of decision. Soon you will have to decide what life you wish to live.” As the bird flew away a poor young man, not much older than she was, walked along the trail. Their eyes met and both fell deeply in love. The young man went to the brother and asked to marry his daughter, but the brother rejected his proposal saying that being the peasant that the young man was he could not care for his sister. The brother then told his sister that he just wanted her to be taken care of and for that reason she must marry the elder man. When she told the young man this he was infuriated and challenged the elder man to duel for the woman’s heart. In the intense fight followed the young woman thought deeply about what she wanted. She loved the young man but also wanted to not only be well off, but also to respect her brother’s wishes. As she watched the ongoing duel, deeply in thought, she remembered what the bird said about choice and finally made up her mind. Just as the thought popped into her head the young man took his sword and plunged it into the elder’s heart. The air was dense with silence and no one dared to take a breath. Then, somewhere, a bird started singing and as the mood lifted the man and the woman walked deep into the forest to live their lives in happiness.
March 21, 2011