I wrote this several years ago. I woke up with the idea and it would not let me go until I’d written it.
Once a long, long time ago a young woman left her village because she had nothing to give. She went out on her own in the cold, gray autumn with only her clothing and a small bit of food she hoped her family could spare.
The woman had no skills to offer the village. She was not allowed to hunt. The Elders believed she was too small to bring back an animal large enough to feed the many families who lived in the small collection of huts near the sea, and she was far too clumsy to make anything worth wearing.
She was a very shy woman. Whenever a man of the village showed interest in her she would run away, often stumbling over her own feet in a hurry to get back to her home and shut the heavy door so she wouldn’t have to speak.
The young woman had been to school. She could read and write, do figures as well as anyone else, and she asked many questions of her teachers. Many of the questions they could not answer.
She wanted these answers but no one in her village wanted to help her, she thought. She was too shy to press on whenever some one told her, “Go away. Stop bothering me.”
So she left her village and headed toward the west. The young woman had never been more than a few hours walk from her home, and only then to wander through the forest and perhaps rest against a tree. The woman liked the quiet. The people of her village were kind, but they expected her to be like all the others. They could not understand how someone raised among them could have been so shy and lacking in skills.
She was cold. The wind whipped through her long black hair and she wrapped her traveling blanket around her tightly. As she rounded a hill she spotted a cave a few feet off the path. The woman knew this would be a good place to rest for the night. It was dark in the cave, but it offered shelter from the wind and it would keep her warm.
And it was quiet.
In the morning she ate her last bit of food and started out once more toward the west. The look of the forest had changed. It was becoming more open now and in the distance she saw what she thought were crystals glittering on the ground.
Soon she was warm. A bright sun was shining and the sky was an unusually clear blue. At last she could see the glittering crystals ahead were the reflection of sunshine off a brilliant blue expanse of water. She had never seen so much water. It was so beautiful. She ran and ran toward it with her arms wide open and her face upturned to the warm sun.
At the shore she stopped. The wild roar of the water and the wind was strange to her, yet she felt drawn toward it. As she watched the waves she became mesmerized by their rhythm.
She walked in to the water.
Without thinking she dived in and felt the water rush by her body. She felt free. This was something she could do and it was exhilarating. The woman took a deep breath and dived under the surface. As she looked around her she was greeted by a strange sight, lumps on the sea floor. These lumps seemed to call to her.
She picked up one of the lumps and saw it was a shell. She opened it and inside was a perfectly round, smooth stone. She closed the shell quickly and took it back with her to the shore. As she opened it once more the sun shone down on the stone and the young woman saw the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
It was luminescent and iridescent and smooth and round. The stone wasn’t just reflecting light; it seemed to have a light of its own. She smiled. This was something new. She had discovered this by herself.
The people of her village did not go to the sea. It was a strange and powerful place and it scared them. Elders told tales of the villagers of the past who ventured to the sea for food but had come back changed and no longer wished to stay in the village. Some had not returned at all.
It was much safer to hunt in the forest than take a chance on the water they learned. So they remained tied to their land and the ways they knew.
The woman knew she had found something precious, something worth more than all her life had been until then. She understood it would not be the same for her now. She took the shell with its small, beautiful stone and returned to her village.
She had something to give.
How We Spoil Our Cats, December 2017 Edition
6 hours ago