Each year the Chickadee would hide seeds in thousands of places and she would remember every one of them. During the cold of winter she would recall seeds hid in light of summer that would feed her and her family.
She picked at the bark. There wasn’t anything there. She picked again. It was gone. It was gone. She moved quickly to the next branch and there wasn’t anything there and then the next and then she stopped.
Someone was watching.
She spun quickly and on the Great Oak sat the Red Headed Woodpecker. She froze in his stare. He held her gaze for a long breath and then turned deliberately and began stabbing and penetrating into the tree.
He maintained one eye on Chickadee.
“I hate Woodpecker,” she thought. She imagined what he would smell like when he was dead. She felt satisfaction. Then she shuddered and stilled.
She scolded herself for creating those thoughts. There was only so much that she could remember. Her winter feathers were coming in thick. Soon, it would be very cold.
She remained motionless with eyes held shut. She could hear the pounding of her heart and she held her breath until the beating plugged her ears from inside and she was drowning in syrup of dying plasma and tissue. There was blinding light that screamed inside her head and she pushed hard to the surface.
The light returned.
She opened her eyes and took a breath. She turned her head to the sound of the woodpecker hammering on the Great Oak.
She did not recall the bird.
The human beings began the forgetting ceremony by closing tight the door to the sweat lodge. There had been great discussion in the days leading to this moment. It was not a ceremony taken lightly. People had lost their minds and went back to when they were not human beings.
The lodge was small, there was enough room for the four and no more. The thick canvas tarp covered the sapling ribs and had been folded over twice to create a shell of darkness. The young man of the outside used his feet to push the tarp downward and inward. He was the doorman.
Unseen hands tapped against the inside of the lodge and he push down and in around there. Silence signaled that only darkness existed inside the lodge.
The Doorman returned to the fire and covered up the ceremonial stones with flaming wood. The old man began to sing the song to Chickadee. His helper sitting to his right began to pour water on the stones. The young woman began to cry and her grandmother next to her in the dark joined in with grandfather. The old people sang the song of forgetting to the beat of the Chickadee’s song.
Outside the lodge, the young man was adding more split wood onto the pyre. He was facing the lodge when it started.
He could hear it behind him. It sounded like wind but became a hum and as the song inside had begun the fourth round he knew what it was. The old people’s song was the familiar Chick a dee dee dee Dee.
He stilled and looked into the fire as a thousand tiny wings flew around him and into the lodge.
In the morning Chickadee opened her eyes. She could see the spots all over the Great Oak where she had hidden seeds. The ancient tree was throbbing a hundred thousand bubbles of life. She could see around the Great Oak and into the forest beyond. She saw everything.
She saw every place where she had stored a seed during the warm days of summer. She was blinded by the memory of the thousands and thousands and thousands for the days and days and days and days and days.
Chickadee closed her eyes and squeezed as tight as she could. She would use her people’s ancient power to force this reality away. She would do it now; just as she had before, just as she had so many times before.
How many times? How many times? How many times?
She did not know. It was all too much. It was all too much at the same time. A shiver went through her body and her claws gripped harder her perch. Her head was spinning and she felt like she was going to throw up.
Every little crevice, every little crack, every definition, all the spaces and the lines in between the trees and the branches and the leaves and the lumps and the secret places in the vines and the plants and the ivy.
All the work and work and work to find and collect and to find and to collect and to fight and to flee and to hide and hide and hide and most of all to remember and she could feel her body reeling.
It swelled with the living memory of every moment of her thousand days. It was in her blood pulsating in all the little voices that made up everything that she was. She could hear dead memories speaking the same thing.
HOW CAN YOU FORGET ME!
When the girl woke up she knew without checking the time that she slept too long. She couldn’t remember when she had slept as long. She must have been little. She thought for the briefest moment that it was the longest time she had slept.
She rolled over and found the clock. It said 6:25. She looked to the window and the sky was purple behind the venetian blinds.
She remembered that the clocks had fallen forward. It was a day ago. Two days ago. She hated losing that hour each fall. She was always losing track of time for most of the month. She preferred time springing forward. It would slap you into reality on the first day but with Fall Back you were still dealing with effects weeks after.
In school at the top of the hill they taught her that daylight savings was done to benefit farmers. She read on the internet that it was because the Germans did it during World Ward 1 and then everyone followed.
She knew Grandpa’s great uncles had served honourably in World War 2. So did Kookum’s uncles. Still it didn’t make any sense to her. How did we defeat following against our will in order to follow against our will?
She thought about the old movie that she watched with Kookum on Sunday. It was on Turner Classic Movies and was about a bitter writer in the days after World War 2. The lead was Van Johnson and the bad girl was Kookum’s favourite, Elizabeth Taylor.
She could see Elizabeth Taylor and Van Johnson swoon in love and victory over fascism while a sign stating English Only was prominently displayed in the background.
The smell of bacon took over the senses and she got up. When she entered the kitchen she saw her grandfather at the stove cracking eggs into a cast iron skillet. In a similar pan on the other front burner sputtered strips of bacon.
She had never seen Grandpa cook. She looked out the front window and she saw Kookum. Her grandmother had turned from the prayer rock in the front yard. The girl knew that Kookum had been saying prayers. Kookum was wiping away tears.
Chickadee was fighting and crashing into the light of this world. The hunger and the cold were constant and her parents gave all heat and food. In the next breath her sibling is snatched away by something with fur and teeth and she can smell its breath.
Then she was free. She could hop and hide and fly and be wherever she wished to be and she could see the opening beyond the trees.
The next morning Mother had a Grasshopper in her mouth. It was fat and green and mother had sad eyes and Chickadee turned up her beak. Mother held the kicking grasshopper in silence.
She remembered all the spots she had planted the day Mother had sent her away. All the places she had placed seeds and dreamed of being free and on her own.
She did not look back to her mother when she had set upon her own perch for the night. The moon was full and its brightness swallowed up all the stars in the sky and Chickadee knew that this was how you would die; swallowed up by a great light.
She could see her fledging children captured in the air by the Hawks and they would scream her name when they were eaten and all of them would scream her name when they were eaten.
She didn’t want to have eggs anymore. She didn’t want to have any more babies. It was too much. She began to use the forget power of her people. Not just to forget all the thousands of seeds they had stored for the past winter. Chickadee began to willfully forget her pain.
Then she could not stop. She could not stop. She could not stop. Over every little thing until it was for nothing.
Her thoughts settled upon the night before. Her mother and her grandmother and her great grandmother and most of the elders had gathered at her nightly perch by the time she had returned for the night.
Her mother was saying something. She can’t remember what it was.
Chickadees discard used Memories
Episodic Memory and Black Cap Chickadees
Chickadee's Brain Grow in Autumn