Every evening, in the Forest, something extraordinary happens. All the animals of Tree, Sky, Soil and Stream gather together beneath the Grand Old Oak to hear Huma sing.
It isn't just the animals that gather, People come from miles around to wonder at the spectacle of her song every night.
Huma begins her song when the Sun begins to set in the evening sky and she only sings for the time it takes the Sun to settle beneath the horizon.
This is enough for the Animals. They listen, spellbound in the perfection and purity of her voice. When the Sun has set, and Huma's song is finished, they happily return to their nests, setts and ponds.
It's not the same with the People though, they are never satisfied.
"Hurrumph. I travelled all this way and all I get is 10 minutes of singing. It's just not good enough!" Says a grumpy old man, with a very wobbly belly.
"It's very cold. I need a drink. There really should be somewhere to sit and have a nice bit of cake and a cup of tea." Says a tall, thin lady with a very pointy nose.
"Well, it's nice and everything, but I really need a wee. There should be toilets here, it's ridiculous" Says a snotty boy in a red cap with lots of spots on his chin.
"Mummy, Daddy, I want one!! I WANT ONE!!!!" Squeals a little girl with one tooth and pig tails.
This is just some of the things the People say when they are visiting Huma. Sometimes they even gibber jabber while she is singing! Not for long though, not even a Person can resist her hypnotic charm.
One evening, as usual, the animals collected around the Grand Old Oak of the Forest and the People came from far and wide. They hustled and bustled and fidgeted and widgeted. Then, when the Sun started to go down, everyone hushed and waited in anticipation...
The Sun got lower and lower in the Sky. Everyone waited...
The Sun became a thin strip of scarlet red on the horizon. Everyone strained to hear...
The Moon replaced the Sun. The animals went home, a little confused, very sad and terribly worried about their dear friend Huma. The People complained loudly about how much time they had wasted and drove off home in their noisy, smelly cars for a cup of tea and a wee.
Where was Huma? Where could she be?
Well, the night before, a Shifty Person had tiptoed and whispered his way to where Huma slept on her branch. He peeked and sneaked behind her. Then, in a flash, he swept her up in a brown sack, swiped her off her branch and whisked her away!
That's why there had been no singing! Someone had bird-napped Huma!
The Shifty Person snook Huma back to his home. "Ha Ha! At last! I have Huma all to myself forever and ever! She will sing for me all day and all night and only I will hear her!! The most beautiful voice in the world is mine, all mine!"
Shifty Person took the sack from Huma's head and put her into a rusty cage in a dark corner of his dusty room.
He commanded her to sing.
Huma just closed her eyes and bowed her head. She had no song to sing. Just an empty hollow inside her heart where her voice used to be. The Person grew very angry. "I demand that you sing for me!"
Still Huma could not sing. She kept her eyes closed and her head bowed.
A tear slowly made it's way down Huma's feathery cheek as she remembered the Grand Old Oak of the Forest and the little crook in her favourite branch where she liked to sleep. Poor Huma. She was so sad, much too sad to sing.
Huma could not eat or sleep and she slowly grew too weak to even stand. At this, Huma's captor, who had grown bored after the first day of stealing her, decided he didn't want Huma any more. He snatched her out of her dirty cage, threw her limp little body out of his window and forgot all about her.
Huma lay below the window, in amongst the weeds and empty sweetie wrappers, too weak to fly away. She looked up to the Sky and smiled. She was free from her cage at last. How happy she was! Quickly, Huma fell into a deep, deep sleep.
"Look! What is that?" A Little Person asked her friend.
"It's a bird, bird brain" Her helpful friend replied.
"She is so beautiful. Aww, look, she is poorly."
"She looks dead to me."
"She is NOT dead. I'm going to take her home to my Daddy. He'll fix her." With that, the Kind Little Person put the sleeping Huma very gently into her pocket and headed straight home.
"Daddy, Daddy, look what I found! Quick, she needs your help" Luckily for poor Huma, the Kind Little Persons Daddy was the kind of doctor that can heal animals.
"Well, well, well. What have we got here.” He said gently. “Oh, my! You have found yourself a very special bird. People have been searching high and low for this little bird and it is you that have found her. This is Huma, the Sunset Songbird of the Forest"
"Can you fix her Daddy? Can you?"
"I will try my very best to." Daddy took Huma and placed her in a willow basket by the wood stove, somewhere warm, clean and quiet to rest. When Huma awoke, Daddy gave her a little water and some seeds. Huma could sense that this Person was a Good Person. She felt safe and so took a little water, pecked at a few of the seeds and almost instantly felt better.
After many days of being cared for by the Kind Little Person and her Daddy, Huma stretched her wings and felt strength in them again.
"It's time that this precious bird was released." Daddy said to the Kind Little Person. "We will take her to the Forest and set her free."
"Lets go now Daddy, I can't wait to see her fly!"
Huma felt a sense of anticipation as she was carried from the house in the willow basket and carefully placed into a car. The trees sped past in a blur.
Finally, after quite some time, they came to a stop. Huma recognised the smell of where they were; damp moss and leafy soil, she recognised the sound of where they were; dancing leaves in the breeze. She smiled quietly to herself, she was home again. The Forest, at last.
"Are you ready to let her go?" Daddy asked his Kind Little Person.
"Yes Daddy, lets do it now."
They opened the car door and Huma cautiously peeked over the edge of her basket.
Then with an effortless hop on to the edge of the basket, she fluttered up to settle on the car door. She gave a thankful look to the Kind Little Person and her Daddy, before flying elegantly skyward and coming to rest on the twisted branch of an old Hawthorn Tree. She looked down at the smiling faces below her and decided to say thank you in the only way she knew how. Huma began to sing.
The Sun wasn't going down and there was only the Kind Little Person and her Daddy there to hear her. It didn't matter to Huma, she just had to sing, it had been so long. It was the most pure, the most perfect, the most heartfelt song Huma had ever sung. She stretched out her wings, raised her delicate little head to the sky and sang it for them, she sang it because she was filled with their compassion and she was free.
When she had finished, Huma looked down at their faces and smiled. Below her the Kind Little Person and her Daddy were holding hands and gazing up at Huma, their faces open with awe. They had never felt so happy, they had just heard a song so beautiful their hearts were filled with it. They both carried that song with them for the rest of their lives, spreading the melody of kindness and gratitude to anyone who would hear.
Huma flew home to the Grand Old Oak of the Forest and to her favourite crook in her favourite branch and nestled down to sleep.
That evening, the Sun started to set and Huma started to sing. The animals nearest to the Grand Old Oak stopped what they were doing, it was Huma, she was home!
A whisper, like the wind blew through the Trees, Sky, Soil and Stream. Huma is home, she is singing!
The animals rushed to hear her. What joy! What happiness!
Huma, The Sunset Songbird of the Forest, sang from her favourite old Oak branch till time never ending...
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