7:30 BELLS Guest Post: Out Flew the Rice Birds by Clare Hodgson Meeker

I'm so please to share this "colorful" 7:30 BELLS Guest Post by the prolific and talented Clare Hodgson Meeker, children's book author.

“There are places I remember
 all my life though some have changed 
Some forever not for better, 
some are gone and some remain….” 

--from In My Life, a song by John Lennon

Twenty years ago, my husband and I took our first trip to Thailand. Some vacations are meant to be relaxing. I knew this would not be one of them, but that challenge makes me feel alive. It was winter. Still the temperatures soared to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the smell of raw fish and pungent spices in the open markets overwhelmed my senses. On a harrowing night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, we were locked in by armed guards who said they were protecting us from bandits. It made a great story, once we safely arrived at our destination. It was an amazing trip experiencing this exotic culture – visiting shimmering gold and bright red Buddhist temples, listening for the bell that called the monks in their orange robes to prayer, seeing tall, delicate lotus flowers with their roots in the mud, and the small brown rice birds flying over the rice fields. These were the characters in the ancient Thai folktale about reincarnation and love lasting over lifetimes that became my first book, A Tale of Two Rice Birds.

Fast forward to this past December when we returned to Thailand as part of a larger trip to Vietnam and Cambodia on a small cruise ship. We were docked at Laem Chabang for the day and paid a visit to a busy site for tourists and Thai worshippers alike. Wat Phra Yai was a small temple that housed the largest Buddha in Chonburi.

As I was walking in from the parking lot, I saw a woman seated with a stack of colorful wooden bird cages in front of her. I asked our guide what she was selling and he answered, “For three dollars, you can release four rice birds from their cage.“ The small brown birds, as common in Thailand as robins are in America, were providing her a living wage. Without hesitation, I paid the woman what she asked and opened the cage door.

Out flew the birds and up into a nearby tree, most likely to be caught again. But that moment of setting them free was thrilling, like writing a happy ending to a story. That sense of accomplishing something beautiful is also deeply satisfying.

Clare Hodgson Meeker is the author of 11 books for young readers including the Smithsonian Notable Book Lootas Little Wave Eater, An Orphaned Sea Otter’s Story.

Her new chapter book, Rhino Rescue! and More Amazing True Stories of Saving Animals is published by National Geographic and will be available in bookstores starting this month. She works from home on Mercer Island near Seattle, and teaches writing in schools through Seattle Arts and Lectures.

Author site:
Twitter: @ClareMeeker

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.
7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month.