Search results for: "setting birds free"

Last spring, my cousin in this story came to Minneapolis with his wife and two adult children to visit. I have only seen him a handful of times as an adult, and it always seems surprising that he is now a grown man. My memories of visiting Thailand as a child include him — a lanky, laughing boy with a buzz cut and the school uniform of navy blue shorts, white shirt — and our adventures together. 


Light streams through curtains of dust.

With my cousin I climb, each step waking more dust.

Hooked on our fingers like elaborate rings

are several small straw cages,

tiny birds cheeping inside.

We come into a room, wooden beams, wooden floors,

empty, but for sunlight from the windows at front.

Dust, wood, light – these muffle the busy sounds below.

At the windows, we lean out to the sunshine.

And then we begin:  taking one cage at a time,

we open it, sending each bird into the light.


With so many ways of acquiring luck — through charms, rituals, even cash — you would think all would be right with the world. But luck, as we truly know, has nothing to do with any of this. Some part living well, some part practicing integrity, a large part pure chance, good fortune has no formula. It comes down to how we measure it. I count it as luck that I had this lively, colorful moment with my family. And what good fortune to remember Setting Birds Free with my cousin years before, and to see that this is where it got me.


We must have looked like we needed it,

the way the hill tribe woman came

at us, determined, her fingers hooked

around small woven cages, each with

a desperately chattering bird inside.

She lifted her arm and waved the cages

in the air, jangling from the many

silver beads sewn onto her

colorfully embroidered clothes.

Aunty bought one – for fun, she said –

letting the birds go would bring us

good luck.


So that was it: a long ago

sun-filled room, burned into memory,

releasing bird after bird out the window.

Dust and sun and cheeping birds.

And luck, too, I learn now, so many years later.


One was fun, but we needed more,

and I knew the woman was telling us so.

Aunty bought another, and another.

Soon we had released every one

of the birds back into the world.

The old woman grinned a toothless smile:

so much luck now, how lucky you are.