Climbing the ivy-covered wall that bordered The Village, Bear Maiden paused at the top and sat for a moment on the sun-warmed stone. Glancing up at the stark Tower piercing the sky, she was disappointed to see that the window was empty. Bear Maiden contented herself with sending thoughts of love and acceptance toward The Tower and its lone inhabitant, and turned back toward The Village. In full spirits, and feeling more alive than she had in years, she jumped off the wall and made her way straight to the broken woman’s cottage.
The woman looked on in shock and wonder as Bear Maiden entered the garden and sat beside her on the old stone bench. Skimming over the full details of her past year, Bear Maiden spoke at length instead about her renewed passion for life and love for herself; her new freedom and sense of boundless possibility; her unleashed power and strength of character; and her hard-won trust in herself and her intuition. The broken woman saw the girl’s beautiful, gold-streaked heart and laughed in happiness for her, inspired by her transformation. Bear Maiden took the woman’s hand and they sat in peace for the full morning, content to share the moment and each other’s company.
A while later, as she turned to the broken woman to bid her good-bye, Bear Maiden stopped at the sight of the woman’s broken heart. Peering deeper into the woman with her newfound insight, Bear Maiden saw not only the remaining pieces of the woman’s broken heart, but also the particular shapes and sizes of them, each piece speaking to past heartbreak. Bear Maiden felt the instinctual compassion rise up, the desire to fix, to be responsible—but it stopped there. Suddenly, she could see the whole woman at once—brokenness and beauty, heart-scars and tender smiles, deep sorrow and incredible resilience. Bear Maiden was moved to see that for all the brokenness of her heart, the woman was perfect. Whole. Complete as she was. Nothing was wrong with her, and there was nothing to fix. The girl felt tears run down her cheeks for the realization, and the woman, seeing in the girl’s eyes only love and her own full, unbroken reflection, wept with her. As the two embraced, a tiny sliver of red reattached itself to the woman’s heart, which began to pulse with the slightest bit more vitality.
Bear Maiden eventually took her leave of the woman and walked through The Village, lost in her thoughts and oblivious to the stares of the villagers she passed. The villagers were stunned by the brightness and clarity of her features, having last seen her as little more than a ghost. She appeared to them as if from a higher dimension, so unaccustomed were they to such vibrancy. The baker, the florist, the teacher—all exclaimed on how they had never before seen her so radiant. Hearing the wonder in their voices, Bear Maiden grinned brightly and they all felt the power of her deep love for life. For many days after Bear Maiden’s return, the other villagers basked in the glow of her peace, warmed themselves at the fire of her love, and reveled in the beauty of a world that only seemed clear when seen through her eyes.
But this could not last. The Village was a hard place for goddesses, for beings of light and love and aliveness. It was a place that quickly sought to fade away bright colors, sand down sharp edges, and break off pieces of heart until all that remained was a vague memory of lovelier days. It was in the culture and common sense of the villagers, who knew the limitations that bound them and who were resigned to life with all the determination of survivors.
Bear Maiden saw how hostile this world was to whole hearts. She saw in her interactions with the other villagers how they viewed her transformation as being all very good for her but not realistic for the likes of them. She saw more clearly than ever the brokenness and wholeness of the other villagers and their determination to avoid notice of either. The florist would listen eagerly to Bear Maiden’s stories, taken in by the girl’s experiences, but when invited to step outside The Village wall herself would quickly stifle her longing and laugh off her interest in the stories as foolish, childish fantasy. The teacher would complain and boast about the problems in her life as if they were a matter of pride, then become silent when asked what steps could be taken to alleviate them. The baker would laugh fully and congenially when others crowded around his stall, but replaced that laugh with an empty stare and a bitter twist to his mouth as soon as others’ backs were turned. Bear Maiden saw all of this, and she saw how very saddening and meaningless such an existence was, and how it missed the point of life entirely.
These interactions brought her down and dimmed her light. She had to fight each day to keep a strong hold on herself and the truth of who she was. It was too easy for her to lose sight of all the varying pieces of herself and the gifts she had discovered within—the courage and honesty of the bear, the love and foresight of the healer, the strength and resilience of the fighter, the grace and liveliness of the maiden. Struggling to maintain her fullest self, Bear Maiden no longer experienced pure freedom and limitlessness. This fight against the constraints of The Village was exhausting to bear on her own. She knew something had to change. But what?
Bear Maiden realized that to end this struggle to be her fullest self, she would have to empower all the people around her to find and be their fullest selves. She would not be free until all of the villagers were free. Her happiness depended on theirs. Only when all of the villagers had experienced their truths could she, with greater ease, live hers. Until that time came, however, staying in The Village would only break her spirit. While Bear Maiden loved The Village with all the fullness of her heart, she knew she could not stay there when her heart and her life were at stake. Her only hope for living in The Village was to find a way to hold onto herself within it.
Bear Maiden recalled her previous encounter with the beautiful woman. Somehow, Bear Maiden’s words or tears had shifted something for the woman, had caused one of her heartbreaks to heal. Bear Maiden reflected then on her own experience of breaking through to the aliveness on the other side of heartache. She saw that while she had no one to fix anymore, she could discover how to empower and inspire others to recognize in their own brokenness the potential for heart-healing and fullness of life. Bear Maiden heard a whisper in her mind affirming the truth she felt in her heart—people could be empowered to heal themselves, and she could be the one to empower. Elated about her new soul-purpose, Bear Maiden began on her true journey.
Though she had only been back in The Village for a single moon’s turning, Bear Maiden packed up her belongings and prepared to leave once more. The beautiful woman hovered behind her, scarcely hiding her worry for the girl’s safety. Despite her concern, the beautiful woman understood the purpose behind the girl’s quest—to learn what she must do in order to be who she truly was. As Bear Maiden had already explained, before she can empower anyone else, she must learn how to empower. Before she can learn that, she must discover how she herself had become empowered. To do that, she must explore her newfound sense of self further.
With a final embrace, Bear Maiden bid the woman good-bye and left the woman’s cottage. She walked through The Village, nodding farewell to each villager she passed, and made her way to the stone wall that blocked off sight of the forest beyond. Bear Maiden climbed the ivy-covered stone and jumped over the edge, landing with a slight huff outside The Village’s border. The Tower loomed before her. As she walked past, she looked up at the single window breaking the strength and majesty of The Tower. But the window was empty. It had been empty and dark ever since she left. Without a pause, Bear Maiden turned her gaze to the woods beyond The Tower and began her quest. She had no time for regret or memories now that she had her own life to live. Would she have a “happily ever after,” she wondered? Bear Maiden was determined to make it so. One foot in front of the other, she stepped lightly and assuredly into the woods, into the world, into the rest of her life.
As for the Boy Magician, well, no one knew where he had gone off to after his disappearance one moon ago. The villagers barely felt his absence, and slowly but surely, Boy Magician faded from The Village’s memory. Let us hope and pray that wherever he went, whatever journey he began, he is led to himself, and to the discovery of the great multitude of gifts he could share with the world should he choose to reenter it. For when we all rise up to claim our gifts and share our truths, we create the world anew, limited only by our imagination and our passion. And so, blessings to all who wander down unfamiliar paths, well-wishes to all who seek new horizons, and great joy to all who succeed in not fitting in—the world is your inheritance.
is only the beginning of another story.