Caged Bird

I love to collect bird cages in my office.  My young clients will often circle the office counting them.  I have a couple on the window ledge and several on the walls.  Many people often ask why I don’t put birds in my bird cages.  The answer to that question lies in my favorite poem.

Caged Bird
by Maya Angelou

A free bird leaps on the back of the wind
And floats downstream till the current ends
And dips his wing in the orange sun rays
And dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage
Can seldom see through his bars of rage
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
Of things unknown but longed for still
And his tune is heard on the distant hill
For the caged bird sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
And the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
And the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
And he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams.
His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream.
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied,
So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
Of things unknown but longed for still
And his tune is heard on the distant hill,
For the caged bird sings of freedom.

Many times the bars of our own personal “bird cages” are of our own making—our own choices.  Choices to hang on to resentment and an attitude of unforgiveness.  Choices to be selfish and ungracious.  Sometimes the bars are of fear—sometimes simple laziness.  I ask myself every time I read this poem, “Of what are my bars made?” “What changes do I need to become free to soar with the wind” Or, “Am I a caged bird at all?”

When I am caged, I may sing of freedom, but I certainly don’t experience it.  I miss it…that feeling of letting go and flying without guilt or shame, or the heaviness of hanging on to the past.  For me it is not just a onetime solution.  Sometimes, life happens and before I know it I have been captured again and find myself sitting on a perch gnawing at cuttlebone.  (Or a cupcake!)  I have had to gain my freedom many times over and over.

With which bird do you identify?  Are you soaring on the wind, flitting from bush to tree and back again, or are you only dreaming of freedom?  Either way, don’t become complacent.  If you need to, reach out and ask for help.  Search for a new perspective, and do what it takes to unlatch the cage door outside of which is precious freedom.

If you are free of the cage, stay there.  Let be what needs to be let be.  Let go of what needs to be let go.  Live, laugh and love—consciously—and soar.

I want to remind myself, as well as inspire others people to be free.  That’s why my bird cages are empty.