by: Cameron Kirk ((Header art by Nicoletta Ceccoli.))
A father’s darkened view of the world is balanced out by his young daughter’s blind love for everything, offering him a light, and a way forward…
My daughter Annie is seven years old and she loves every living thing. She feels the world with a depth of emotion long ago lost to me. I have watched my daughter tearfully caress many a broken winged bird as she nursed it back to health, only to cry again at its leaving. In recognition of her bottomless empathy, I have nicknamed her Annie Sparrow Wing.
“May, I keep it Daddy?” she would ask me softly as she cradled an injured bird in her tiny hands.
“No, my dear one, birds must be free. It would be cruel to keep it forever.”
I say these words because I know they are what a father should say to his child, but I do so mechanically, and the words come to me as if echoes from far away.
I love Annie for her compassion for these fractured little beings, though I, myself, possess none.
I believe that I too once loved small creatures, those of long tail and frail winged, although I do not wholly remember this time. Surely, all children begin their existence loving birds, before they learn to fear, and before they are taught to hate. The only birds I recall are the still and blackened figures tied to the earth in the crumbling parks and playgrounds of my youth. I did not pity them. Instead, I reserved my limited supply of empathy for the blackened and charred corpses of my neighbors, friends, and family.
I am a refugee, and every day I thank God that my Annie was born into a land of peace, and that she will never know or see what I know or what I have seen.
And so I watch Annie giggle with such joyous laughter and cry such powerful tears. However, I am far, far away, drowning, and the suffering of all creatures great and small is lost in my own desperate attempts to stay afloat. In quiet times, I feel the ghosts of my past clutching at my legs, clawing and flapping their wings uselessly in the cold waters. But I am unable to help them, and I no longer care to so I kick them away.
The only thing I love is my Annie Sparrow-Wing. My beautiful little one.
She still cares for the feeble and the broken. She still sees the best in all things.
And in her I see a glimmer of hope. Hope for the burnt, the blackened and the drowned.
Hope for me.