Trapped inside, her song stayed silent

Hidden Consequences Mixed Media 24" x 30" 2016 Louise Gallagher
Hidden Consequences
Mixed Media
24″ x 30″
2016 Louise Gallagher

Flying free, she left her voice behind and her song stayed trapped within her.

“Is there a subliminal message in this painting mom?” my eldest daughter asks me.

“I suppose there is,” I tell her.

“It feels sad, at least the words do,” she says.

I explain how it was not intentional. That the painting began as a tree. In the art of painting over, the tree became something else until what appeared was an empty birdcage and a bird on the outside and the words, Flying free, she left her voice behind and her song stayed trapped within her.

But inside the cage, the bird’s song remains trapped.

It was the bird’s song that landed her in the cage in the first place. Giddy with the feeling of the sun on her feathers and the gentle spring breeze beneath her wings, she sat on a branch and sang and sang and sang.

Just then, a young boy walked by and heard her singing. Entranced by her song, he decided to capture her and put her in a cage. That way, thought the boy, he would always be able to enjoy the bird’s song all the time.

Trapped inside a cage, the bird could not sing. She was too sad. She yearned for freedom.

Over time, the bird completely forgot about its song. She completely forgot what freedom felt like.

As time moved on, the boy forgot why he had her, or even how she ended up in the cage in his room, until one day, he grew up and moved away to another country. He could not take the bird with him so he set her free.

Frightened by her new found freedom, she clung to a branch as if her life depended upon it. Day after day she sat on the branch waiting for the boy to come and feed her.

He never came.

Finally, hunger overcame her and the bird did the only thing she could think of to do. She let go of the branch and fell to the ground. She didn’t know she had wings to fly. She didn’t know she had a song to sing.

Lying on the ground, a cat came upon her. Thinking she was dead, he ignored her and lay down in the warm spring sunshine. The bird, after recovering from her fall, woke up and spied the cat sitting beside her. She sat up and in that movement, the cat realized the bird was not dead. He pounced.

This was a real and very present danger, the bird realized.

She had to move. Fast.

It was the suddenness of the cat’s movement that saved her. Startled, she did what came naturally. She spread her wings and flew away. In her delight at flying, she opened her mouth and the beautiful notes of her song, trapped inside for so long, came pouring out.

I have been thinking of things left behind.

How sometimes, beneath life’s burdens, we leave behind the things that mean the most to us  in our efforts to run away from what hurts us. We tell ourselves, it was our speaking out, our singing, our dancing, our being wild that got us into trouble in the first place.

So we tamper them down. We lock away our voices, our songs, our dances and walk the straight and narrow.

We tell ourselves, “this will keep me safe.”

The safety of silence is an illusion.

When we refuse to break free of silence, when we allow the past to keep our voices and our bodies still in the present, we are holding ourselves trapped in the fear of the past repeating itself in the present.

We cannot know freedom when we are too afraid to speak up, speak out, speak freely against the things that held us down.

Until we let go of fearing the power of our own voices, our song will remain trapped inside us.


I had trouble getting to sleep last night, and so, I wrote this story at 2am, pouring my mind out into the night.

I fell asleep easily afterwards to discover this morning, I was responding to this writing prompt:



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