This one is for the fella on my palm


Snow shimmers in -24 degrees. Trees that usually wear their forest green coats are dusted by frost, looming tall and piercing the pastel coloured sky like sentinels for a citadel of silence. Finland is made of frozen moments, standing so still in between breaths of icy air. It’s serene. It’s like a dream. It’s the most enchanting thing I’ve ever seen.

How can anything possibly survive in this? I wondered.

But amidst all the snow, I pulled a packet of sun out of my pocket and sprinkled sunflower seeds into my palm. I turned to Ben, grinning, white eyelashes fluttering in determination. Extending my arm to the watercolour sky, I whispered, “wouldn’t it be wonderful if –“

Not if, as it happened, but when. And when was the end of that unfinished sentence, as my mouth froze not from the minus temperatures, but from the tiny creature that had landed softly on my outstretched palm.

A Siberian Jay.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one landed on me, I was going to say.

As light as his own feathers, legs like branches bare of lichen, his black beak streamlined and carved, yet delicate as he grabbed seeds from my palm.

The night before Ben and I watched an arbitrary episode of Friends in our Kelo log cabin. It was the only English channel, showing The One With Rachel’s Assistant, the one where Rachel hires her new assistant and future lover Tag. Now, standing in a gentle snowfall, frozen still and barely breathing so as to not blow my fleeting friend away, his little feet clutching the edge of my palm, I noticed a small yellow tag clipped around his leg, just above them. To recognise him amongst his feathered family.

So, we decided to name him Tag.

Thank you, little friend, for turning my chilly fingers into a finite home for a while. I haven’t washed them since.

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