My mother and I were on a walk in East Kessler when we saw a cardinal explode from the dense foliage of an gnarled old juniper in a wild, jubilant riot of color, leaving behind a small leafy golden window that hovered for just a moment. Mom smiled and spoke.
"Look," she said, pointing to first the bird, and then the window. "The cardinal carries a departed soul back through that portal to this world, so that it might go and visit someone it loves." I thought about that for a second.
"Can they converse?" I asked, because it seems to be the obvious question. Mother gave a slight frown now, considering her words.
"The cardinal will try to speak to the loved one, of course," she said, "but except for Tiresias and the descendants of sylphs, I know of no one who can understand the language of the birds."
"That seems a pity," I said. "To come all the way back to this world and not be able to be understood by the person you love." Mother nodded, conceding the point and then shrugged.
"Whether they are understood or not," she said, "they do get to say aloud that they love them, which one must assume they didn not say enough when they lived here as humans. I think most of the cardinals would say that is worth the journey."