Once upon a time, in a land not far from here, there lived a girl who had it easy. She danced and she sang and she twirled around each and every day because each and every single thing in her life was simple. She reveled in the ease and allowed herself to soak up the sun with every passing day. It was, after all, always sunny in her world. This girl enjoyed, and she loved, and she smiled. She knew delight and happy and freedom. There were flowers. There were pretty things. But one day, this girl lost her happy.
Wasting no time at all, she put on her loveliest shoes and set off to look for it. Crossing through the forest was not easy. She could not dance for the thorns underfoot. She could not sing for fear of waking monsters. She could not twirl lest her beautiful dress get caught in the underbrush. This was hard for the girl. Her smooth, pretty skin grew rough with chilly goosebumps. The sun was speckled here- no soaking-up allowed. But this girl enjoyed, and she loved, and she smiled. She smelled the scent of soft moss and rustling leaves. She held up her hands to grab hold of a tree branch and climbed that knotted tree to the top to get a better view. Though she could see for miles and miles, she could not see her happy.
At the edge of the forest was a cliff. The girl despaired because she couldn’t figure out how to continue on to find her happy. She was stuck. But as she watched a little mouse scurry over the edge, and continue picking his way down the rocky edge, she decided she could do this too- in hopes of finding her happy. The girl lifted her skirts and slipped over the edge, carefully choosing foot holds to guide her down. Her muscles were sore and there was sweat on her brow and her breath labored. But this girl enjoyed, and she loved, and she smiled. With a final exhale the girl made it to the bottom. She smiled at the view but was saddened that still, she did not find her happy.
Lying in shadow of the big cliff, was a raging river. The girl walked to the edge and dipped in her toes. She had to brace herself in order to stay standing but the water felt cool on her legs. As the water waged on, the girl splashed on the shore. What could she do to get across? She would not give up looking for her happy. The girl paced back and forth along the shore. Though this river felt cool on her feet, and the sparkling water was beautiful, the girl was unhappy for it was impeding her progress. How would she get across? How could she continue on to find her happy? As she gazed out across the water, imagining her happy waiting patiently on the opposite shore, one unexpected thing happened. The little mouse from the cliff reached up it’s tiny pawed hand and gave her a little shove. It was a tiny shove, really, because tiny mice can’t give big shoves.
“You cannot help me.” the girl said to the mouse. “You are too small to do such a big, hard thing.”
But the little mouse shoved again and the girl had no choice but to step forward. One foot in front of the other, she discovered the water to be shallow. Taking her time to get across, the girl continued to place one foot in front of the other, bracing herself against the current, and making her way slowly across. This was hard for the girl. She had to concentrate too hard to even consider dancing or twirling. She was too busy biting her bottom lip and focusing on the shore to even think about singing. But the girl smiled, and she enjoyed, and she loved.
Once she got safely to the opposite shore, they girl looked eagerly around for her happy. She was soon disappointed because there was nothing on the shore except a little old owl, perched on a branch caught in the muddy shallows of the river bed.
“Hello Owl.” Said the girl to the owl.
“Hello Girl.” Said the owl to the girl.
They sat and they stared, in that special way owl’s stare, and looked out at the water. The girl could see the cliff, and she knew beyond the cliff was the forest and beyond that was her happy, easy, home. She asked the owl,
“Owl, I know what lies behind me but I know not what lies ahead. I am looking for my lost happy but fear I may never find it. Is it easy again, what lies ahead? Should I continue on or go back?”
Owl blinked for a while in the special way that owls blink.
“Tell me about your search so far. Tell me about your journey to find your happy.”
With no reason not to answer, the girl recounted her journey to the owl.
“Upon leaving my happy home, I journeyed through a forest. There was no bright sunshine but the speckled light was beautiful and danced among the leaves. I could not smell sweet flowers but the smell of Earth and Moss and Leaves was new and wonderful. My hands felt the rough bark of trees and at the top I could see for miles and miles.”
“Hmmm,” said the owl. “Was this where you found your happy?”
“No, Owl.” Said the girl. “I have not found my happy yet.”
“Where did you look after the forrest?” asked Owl.
“After the forrest, I came to a cliff. I had to climb down and it was hard. My breath raced and my muscles worked hard to find a safe way down.”
“And yet you smile.” spoke Owl.
Pondering Owl’s observation, the girl continued her tale.
“At the bottom of the cliff, I came to this river we both see. After a long while of thinking, a little mouse gave me a tiny shove and I discovered I could walk across. The water was cool and the current was strong and I felt good to have gotten across. But here we sit and still I have not found my happy.”
“Hmmm” the owl thought again as the girl continued with her story.
“I need to keep going, Owl. I need to find my happy. But I fear I’ll never find it. What if I keep having to do hard things?” After a long while, Owl responded.
“Was leaving your easy home hard?”
“Yes.” replied the girl.
“Was traveling through the forrest and climbing a tree hard?”
“Yes.” replied the girl.
“Was climbing down the cliff hard?”
“Yes.” replied the girl.
“Was getting across the river hard?”
Again, the girl replied “Yes. Yes, indeed it was.”
“Seems to me you have replaced your happy with hard.” spoke Owl. “Seems to me you may never find your happy again.”
The girl wept.
“What is beyond this river owl? Fly up and tell me what lies beyond our shore.”
Owl flew up then returned and spoke. “Beyond our shore lies a maze of corn. It is miles in all directions and easy to get lost.”
“Beyond the corn lies a mountain with snow. It is slick and cold and warns of storms yet to come.”
“Beyond the mountain lies an ocean and it is wider and more treacherous than our river.”
“Beyond the ocean lies a strange land full of creatures and elements you have never even dreamed of.”
The girl wept harder.
“Why do you cry?” asked Owl, blinking his eyes in that special way owls blink.
“I cry because I feel my happy is gone forever, Owl.”
“Tell me, girl, tell me how you have felt on your journey.”
“I have felt curious.” said the girl. “I have felt wonder, joy, beauty, strength, fear, excitement, courage, bravery, accomplishment, disappointment.”
“Hmmm” thought the owl. “You have felt all of these things but you still have not found your happy?”
“That’s right.” spoke the girl. “I may never find my happy again.”
“Oh but I think you have found something greater than happy after all. Will you chose to return to your easy home without your happy or journey on in hopes of finding it beyond our little shore?”
The girl thought and thought. After that she thought some more.
“Owl,” she asked. “Do you think that my happy will make my life easy again?”
“Do easy things make you happy?” asked the owl in return.
The girl thought and thought. And thought some more. Climbing the knotted forrest tree had made her something. Climbing down the cliff edge had made her that same something too. Discovering a way across the river, once again, made her feel that very same something yet another time as well. What was that something? What was she feeling?
Suddenly, the girl jumped up from her place on the shore.
“I found it!” she exclaimed. “I think I found my happy. I’ve had it all along.”
“But your journey has not been easy.” reminded owl. “It has been hard and difficult and trying.”
The girl smiled. “I think happy does not have to mean easy. I think easy things do not always make me happy, owl.”
Owl flew up over head as the girl looked out at the cornfield. She took a step, looked up and smiled, and continued on in search of happy. Her journey was hard and difficult, and owl still flew overhead. But the girl never returned to her easy home again. She felt fear and then she felt happy. She felt excitement and then she felt happy. She felt tired and sore and weary and then she felt happy. She saw darkness and sunshine and beauty and yuck and she felt happy. She worked hard and spoke loudly and climbed and walked and trudged and she felt happy.
Then, once upon a time…
…this girl lived happily ever after.
I’ve been telling Lilly stories about finding happiness at night when I’m tucking her into bed. These stories have helped us with tantrums, lately, by giving Lilly an example to follow. When she’s sad or upset I ask her where her happy has gone. More and more often she tells me “it’s lost” then flashes me a big, beautiful smile and tells me “she found her happy” again.
I’ll be posting an illustrated version soon. Lilly wants pictures. Lilly wants to see this girl and her owl. And quite frankly, so do I!