— Riku —
She kept crying, don’t let me go, don’t let me go, don’t let me — and then she let her go. Riku closed her eyes tight and gritted her teeth. Unfold the wings and let the winds take you where they want to, Riku. Her mother smiled as she embraced her daughter for her first flight. Her mother had an unwavering faith in the winds. She loved the freedom that the winds gave her. The only thing that she loved more than her freedom was Riku. When Riku opened her eyes, she gasped. She could fly.
Perhaps, it takes courage to let your children go. Perhaps, it is the fleeting nature of happiness. Riku could never understand. A bird-catcher had been following them for months now. She knew someday that bird-catcher will catch hold of Riku. Please, my daughter — she is young, she has not seen the world, she has not fallen in love with the winds, let her go, I’ll come with you.
On that night, she traded her freedom for Riku with the bird-catcher. The next morning, when Riku was flying for the first time, the bird-catcher was waiting to cage her mother. Perhaps, it takes courage to give away your freedom for your children. She just smiled. Every time Riku unfolded her wings, she remembered that her mother sacrificed her freedom so that she could have hers. Riku’s mother wanted her to see the world. She wanted her to see the beauty in everything, and she wanted her to see everything in beauty.
Riku closed her eyes tight and gritted her teeth. From the cracks somewhere, a tear rolled down. It fell on the page of the book a boy was reading, sitting on the bench. When she opened her eyes, she saw the most beautiful garden she has ever seen.
— Charlie —
He sat there on the bench in his garden with a book. What else does one need to be happy? He got birds, books, flowers, and the moon in his garden. A garden that smelt of hyacinths, and of his sweat. His father always used to say, life begins when you start to garden. Maybe that is why he planted a hyacinth when his father died. His father said a lot of good things, and he had learned everything in his life just from listening to his father.
People garden for all kinds of reasons: to give without having, to love the growing, to please the soul, but most importantly, people garden because they believe in beautiful tomorrow. There’s not much a garden needs from us, but one thing. Do you know what that one thing is, Charlie? Charlie smiled and shook his head. He knows the answer, but he wants to listen to his father say it all anyway.
Love. You have to love your garden, Charlie. You have to nurture the flowers and take care of weeds. Garden is not made by sitting in shade. Garden is made by sweating under the sun. And that is why his garden smelt of hyacinths, and of his sweat. Charlie always listened to what his father had to say. Tell me, Charlie, how is a gardener different from an emperor? An emperor wants to conquer what he can see. A gardener wants to make tomorrow beautiful. A gardener dreams bigger dreams than an emperor. Remember my son. And Charlie always remembered that there was no greater joy in life than to be a gardener.
Charlie has never seen the world outside his garden. He never felt the need. His days would start before dawn. He would sweat all day nurturing his flowers and digging out the weed. Weed is the biggest enemy of the garden, Charlie. You must dig out the weed every day, or the flowers will die. And at dusk, he would sit on the bench in his garden, reading the book, and feeding the birds. The only thing more beautiful than a garden was a garden with birds.
— Garden —
It was a fine evening when Riku came into Charlie’s life like a cool wind on a warm night and sat beside him on the bench.
“What are you reading?”
“Flowers in the Attic,” said Charlie.
“What is it about?”
“It’s about a mother who cages her lovely children in an unused attic for years because a fortune was at stake.”
“That is terribly unfortunate.” sighs Riku. “My mother used to say let the winds take you where they want to, Riku.”
“And where have they taken you?” said Charlie.
“To your garden…your garden is beautiful. It’s the most beautiful place I have ever been to.”
“I’m so glad you are here,” said Charlie.
That was also the most beautiful place Charlie has ever been to, the bench in his garden with Riku sitting beside him.
There was something about Riku. It wasn’t her ruby neck or pointy beak. It wasn’t her voice, although her voice was beautiful—and warm—and it made you feel hugged. Maybe it was the fact that she truly and genuinely wanted to listen to what Charlie had to say about his books and his garden. Maybe it was the fact that she was always so cheerful and full of life. She would sit beside Charlie on the bench every evening, and every evening Charlie would feel as if he was at the most beautiful place he has ever been to. It is uncanny how that same bench, that same book, that same evening, which Charlie had to himself for years, looks so different, so colourful now. As if Riku had filled a void in Charlie’s heart that never existed before. What else does one need to be happy?
— Winds —
Charlie loved Riku so much that there was no place inside his heart to love anything else. He couldn’t love his garden anymore. Now his days weren’t spent nurturing the flowers and digging the weed. They were spent thinking about Riku. Now his evenings weren’t spent reading the books. They were spent waiting for Riku. They were spent talking with Riku. There was so much that he always wanted to tell her. There was so much he always wanted to listen from her. In his garden, weed was growing like wildfire, and flowers — flowers were dying like it was the plague. His garden doesn’t smell of hyacinths anymore. His garden just smells of Riku. And Riku could see that his garden wasn’t the most beautiful place anymore. She could see that the Charlie as she knew him, the Charlie who loved his garden, the Charlie who loved his books, was lost somewhere, nowhere to be found.
But this is just the poetic way to say that Charlie loved too much. To love too much is to put your lover in a cage without bars. To love too much is to not love yourself enough. To love too much is an act of selfishness. Loving someone is to trust someone to be vulnerable enough to share your deepest fears, knowing that you will always be protected from those fears. Charlie knew that Riku feared cages. Charlie knew that because Riku loved Charlie, to be vulnerable enough to share her deepest fears. Because that’s what love is, giving someone your deepest fears and trusting that they’ll never scare you with them. So when Riku told Charlie that she wants to explore the world, that she wants to see all the beautiful places in the world, that how sometimes she feels that his garden has become a cage without bars, Charlie didn’t say anything.
You cannot love a flower and a bird just the same. A flower can stay rooted forever in one place. A bird has to unfold the wings. But what was Charlie’s fault? His father taught him to love things with roots. And what was Riku’s fault? Her mother taught her to love the winds.
Dawn was lining the horizon, but there was darkness all around Charlie. A cool wind was blowing, but Charlie was panting. There was weed all around. Riku was gone, maybe forever, maybe she’ll come back someday, we don’t know. All the flowers in his garden were dead, but there was a newly planted hyacinth near the bench. Charlie started to dig the weed around that hyacinth. He closed his eyes tight and gritted his teeth. From the cracks somewhere, a tear rolled down. It fell on the note Riku had left him before leaving:
Life begins when you start to garden. Life begins when you start to love yourself. But Charlie, remember, life begins. I’ll come back and tell you about the beautiful places winds are taking me to, but don’t wait for me. I want you to see beauty in everything, and I want you to see everything in beauty. Charlie, please, don’t stop loving your garden for me. Because life begins, and so must you. Your heart’s big enough to love everything you can see Charlie. And your father was right when he said, gardener dreams bigger dreams than an emperor. Because only a gardener can love a flower without plucking it. Because only a gardener can love a bird without caging it. Tomorrow will be beautiful. Take good care.