Back in the days when Mother Nature was still mixing up colors and trying them out in different patterns, the final appearance of a creature was still in the formative stage. Most creatures waited patiently as she painted them this color and that, washed it off, and painted them yet again. Most creatures delighted in being variations of all the colors of the rainbow, if only for a short time.
But one creature did not. One creature had his own ideas of how he wanted to appear and was not interested in what Mother Nature thought was best for him. This was the jaybird, a bird known even back then for his aggressive behavior. By the time Mother Nature got around to coloring the birds, the jaybird had already made a plan of his own. Each time she plucked him from a tree to examine him and talk to him, he squirmed away and insisted she take care of other birds, feigning concern for them.
And so the painting of the birds proceeded. Some birds were given brilliant colors of red or yellow. Others were given soft pastels of pink and peach. Many were not brightly colored at all, but instead had patterns within the muter color she had given them. There were many variations of browns, blacks, grays, and whites. Each bird looked unique and beautiful when she had finally finished with it. As she painted, the jaybird hid in a tree and carefully watched all of the paints, how to mix them, how to create patterns, how to take a creature from lowly to divine with just a shade of color. And he thought to himself, I can do that.
|The bold blue jay.|
At last, Mother Nature had finished coloring all of the birds, and she caled to the jay and told him it was his turn and that she would delay no further. He came reluctantly but with a plan.
“I am thinking black with white speckles might be nice for you,” Mother Nature said.
“Pah!” spat the jay, “I couldn’t bear it!”
“Hmmm…..perhaps a nice shade of brown with complex patterns to help you hide better in the trees,” she said.
“My crested head would be wasted on such a boring color.”
“A deep rust color, then? That might be nice,” she said as she picked up her brush.
“Never! The hawks and sparrows and finches might be pleased with it, but not I.”
Mother Nature was tired because she had been painting for several days, and her patience had worn thin. Still, she wanted her creatures to be happy and content.
“What color, then, did you have in mind?” she asked between closed teeth.
“I have decided I will be blue,” said the jay.
“I have not given the color blue to many things,” she said. “I have reserved that mainly for the sky and the waters and perhaps a few other special things.”
“Am I not special??” the bird demanded.
“Of course, my love, but certain colors do certain things, and certain colors have certain magics attached to them. You are bold enough for blue,” she said, “without a doubt, but it can be too showy at times, especially for a little bird.”
The jay squirmed out from her grasp, furious and enraged. He knew he didn’t stand a chance against her, but he was angry all the same and not about to kowtow.
“I think I will rest for the remainder of the day,” Mother Nature said, “and you and I will begin anew tomorrow. Be ready for your new color then. I think you will be pleased with what I am planning. Rust and brown can be beautiful together.”
With that, she flew off to meet the sun, which was already at the horizon, and the two of them boarded a golden boat and slipped gently beneath the Earth. The other creatures found their little homes and slipped inside one by one, snuggling up to sleep for the night. The jay watched as they all hid themselves until he was completely alone. He waited for the bright silver apple to appear up in the heavens and light the way for him, which presently it did.
Then quietly, very quietly, he slipped over to Mother Nature’s paints. He carefully rummaged through them, searching for various shades of blue, but it was difficult to see in the dim light. The brilliant silver apple in the sky saw him sneaking around and was interested in his doings. She moved directly above him and shone her light upon him as brightly as she could. The jay looked up and nodded in appreciation, and then he set to work painting himself with the magic paints, doing his best to remember how Mother Nature made this pattern and that. When he finished, he thanked the glowing silver apple in the sky, and she winked back at him and sailed onward, giggling at his impertinence. The silver apple has always loved tricks, after all. Then the jay went to sleep.
In the morning, Mother Nature came back with the sun on the golden boat in the sky, and the two of them disembarked after a long kiss. He went about his business of bringing light to the world, and she went back to her creatures.
“Now, then, jay!” she called out, “It is time for your transformation!”
Having no mirror, the jay was not quite certain how he looked. He had intended on seeing his reflection in the pond once the sun came back, but he didn’t have time. He was nervous and worried but determined not to show it, and so he boldly flew out of his tree and landed right on the painting table.
A great intake of breath could be heard from all of the birds in the trees, who all immediately stopped singing, making the silence that much more profound. All eyes were on the jay. All beaks hung open. All the furry creatures of the forest stopped and stared. Everyone was riveted to their spot by the brilliant blue jay who stood boldly and proudly before Mother Nature.
For a long time, no one said anything. Mother Nature stared darkly at the blue jay before her with many emotions passing over her face. At long last, she relaxed a bit and gave a slight smile.
“So you have painted yourself, then?” she asked.
“I have,” came the whispered response from the jay, who trembled before her.
“Very well,” she said, “I could wash off your colors and paint you anew, but I think I will leave you the way you are. You do not know how this world will change when the Great Alchemist appears, but I do and that is why I have done my best to give all my creatures an advantage with their color. Are you certain you wish to stay this way?”
“I am certain.”
“Let it be so, then,” she said. “Because of your sneaking and insolence, your bright blue colors will weigh you down. You will not fly as quickly as many other birds, and because of that, you will be easy prey for some of the larger raptors. Your color will be easy to spot and chase, and it will lead the squirrels and cats and raccoons and snakes to your nest and your eggs.
“But because of your bravery, your talent, and your initiative, you will bring those qualities with you into the next world. You will be known far and wide for your aggression but also for your alarm call when dangers are near, and other birds will appreciate you for that. Your ability to mimic my painting skills will be transferred into an ability to mimic some of the calls of the raptors, to locate them and stay safe. I hope you will not use that ability to scare off other smaller birds and steal their food from them, but I would not put it past you.
“In the end, though, I must congratulate you on doing such a splendid job with the magic paint. Because of that, many people will search you out and admire you for your beauty. And I would say that you have at least earned that.”
Mother Nature dismissed the blue jay then and gathered up her paints, mumbling to herself that she ought to be more careful about leaving magical items out overnight. The blue jay just cocked his head this way and that way, watching her as she went about her business. After she had gathered all of her things in both hands, he hopped up on to her shoulder and whispered in her ear:
“I am a special thing now.”
“You were always that, but now you are blue as well,” she said.