Wren’s Wintery Wonderings
Wren had always found the short days and long nights of winter caused him to be even more introspective than usual. Even the most inconsequential of thoughts could send him into a spiral of questions that, more often than not, he had no answers for.
This year his wonderings had already included:
a) what the plants did while they were covered in snow and he couldn’t see them (digging down to see had proved too unpleasant and he’d had to beg a warm bath from the Witch to prevent a chill setting in),
b) how long it would take him to fly to the moon (far too long to be sensible, definitely over twenty-four hours, and he had no intention of trying to find out), and
c) whether he could persuade Eagle to fly to the moon and take him along for the ride (unlikely given the Eagle still bore a grudge for the King of the Birds episode, despite how long ago that had been).
But as the days shortened and the nights grew long and cold Wren returned to the one question that plagued him every year; why did winter have to be the way it was, cold and dark and dead? Every year, as his spirit sank in the face of the encroaching dark, he wished he had an answer more satisfying then “because it does”. He thought about asking one of the inhabitants of the Wildwood, maybe Owl or Wolf, or even the Witch herself, but he was supposed to be a clever bird, surely he should be able to figure it out himself.
As the solstice grew ever closer Wren made sure to spend every minute of the day outside in the light, feathers fluffed out to the maximum to keep the cold at bay, hopping hither and thither in search of bright cheerful things to fill his home. One day, once again pondering the eternal question of winter, he found himself at the edge of the lake on the northern edge of the wood. Mountains rose behind the water, higher even than the Eagle had flown him that fateful day, snow covered they made Wren think of brides ready to be wed, trailing their cloud veils as they looked for the coming of their lovers.
The edges of the lake were frozen and snow covered but the ice had not yet managed to cover the whole of the lake, leaving a wide circle at the centre. Wren hop-skipped his way up a bulrush to get a better look at the mirror flat water that reflected the mountains and the pale grey sky which held the promise of more snow. Everything was quiet and still and Wren found himself holding his breath, waiting for he knew not what.
Seven swans swept into view, circling the lake, once, twice, and then they dropped, wings outstretched, gliding silently one after the other, until they landed with the merest hint of a splash. Wren realised, as their whooping echoed across the water, that these were visitors all the way from Iceland. They had come here because they preferred the winter weather here.
‘Thinking about why winter is like it is again?’ asked the Witch, appearing at his side as suddenly as if she’d learnt to materialise.
‘How do you know I think about that?’
‘You talk to yourself,’ the Witch sounded amused, ‘and you’re not the quietest of birds.’
Wren flicked his tail in embarrassment. ‘I know you refer to me as the Tiny Shouter but it’s still rude to listen to other people’s conversations.’
‘You were in my house, making use of my warm water, in my egg cup, on my kitchen table. I couldn’t help but hear you.’
‘Well, yes, the bath was most welcome.’ Wren shuffled about on the bulrush and ruffled his feathers. ‘So can you tell me why, then?’
‘I could say something profound about life being about balance in all things, and how the cold and dark of the winter is needed to offset the heat and brightness of the summer. I could tell you that winter is a time of necessary regeneration, for pulling back and taking stock, cushioned by what the previous year has already given us. I might point to long nights as a sign from the world that winter is the time to rest, to sleep, to restore ourselves so that we can make the most of the year to come.’
‘But those are stories I created to make the experience of winter bearable to me. Winter doesn’t care about balance, or regeneration, or sleep, any more than summer cares for abundance and long days full of dancing. You’ve been right all along, that the answer is because it does; winter is not a thing but a process and it is one we all must find our own way to deal with.’
‘I like those stories,’ Wren said, hopping from the bulrush onto the Witch’s wrist. ‘Can I borrow them?’
‘Of course you can,’ the Witch said, lifting him to eye level and smiling at him. ‘You can make your own, too.’
‘Well in that case,’ said Wren, turning to look at the lake and mountains and two of the swans, whose heads bent together over the water making the shape of a heart, ‘maybe winter is also meant to remind us that there is beauty in everything, if we only take the time to look.’
This story is the seventh of a twelve part series that was written at the start of December 2022 in response to daily prompt emails from Writer’s HQ for their 12 Days of Flashmas challenge. It is presented here pretty much just as it was originally written on the seventh day of the challenge. If you’d like to know more my explanatory post can be found here.