During my first winter in Kyiv, the gray skies hung heavy over the city. I was facing the challenges of adjusting to life in a new country, of finding new meaning and purpose. In the mornings, I wrote songs on the old upright piano in the apartment. In the afternoons, I trudged through the snow to the schools and businesses where I taught English classes.
The tree outside our window was a favorite perch for the neighborhood birds. Throughout the day, little yellow finches, dirty pigeons and big, black-and-gray crows landed and sat on its branches. We thought they looked hungry, so we started to feed them with crumbs of leftover cake that we left on the windowsill.
The finches liked the cake the most. They flocked to the tree whenever we opened the window, and swarmed down to feast on the sweet crumbs as soon as we had pulled our hands back inside. We watched their little wings beat faster as the sugar spiked in their systems.
One day, I was sitting at the kitchen table writing when a new bird landed in the tree, one that I’d never seen before. It was regal and majestic. It had black wings streaked with dark blue feathers and a white chest. Its head was a deep, rich maroon. It was alone and sat dignified in the tree, unbothered by the cake still on the windowsill.
I put down my pencil and stood up, moved by the bird’s beauty. The bird’s appearance on this dark, snowy day seemed too good to be true, like waking up next to my girlfriend and knowing deep inside that a moment this perfect couldn’t possibly last. It stayed for several minutes, princely on its snowy roost, before flying off toward the smoky city horizon.
If I asked a poet to make a portrait of a perfect life I wouldn't dream that she could write words that could make you fly If I were a painter with God's palette and a golden brush I wouldn't dream of your wing's warm spark in the winter sky Your light is the first light of morning I want you here when I open my eyes Your whispers are mysterious dancers My questions turn toward you when they feel your touch Rare bird, you're a visiting dancer A bright soul on a snow-draped tree Linger in the light of my courtyard Share your color with a fellow traveler If I were a teacher trying to tell the truth to a new generation I might share the light of your wing's warm spark in the summer sky If I asked a leader how she takes her people in a new direction She might share words she learned by watching you fly Be my guide and I'll walk in tall mountains Stay with me and I'll stand by the sea Teach me to fly in the cool afternoon air We'll learn to live to the beating of wings Rare bird, you're a visiting dancer A bright soul on a sun-touched tree Linger in the light of my courtyard Share your color with a fellow traveler