Convinced it was the right thing to do, she put the shoes on her daughter and made her promise she would never take them off. “If you remove the shoes your feet will fall off and you will fall down, never to get up again.”
And so the little girl who loved to dance learned to walk with heavy step.
But still she loved to sing and laugh no matter where she went. Her mother feared her daughter’s voice, which sounded like birdsong, would keep her from ever taking life seriously and if she didn’t take life seriously, how would she ever watch out for trouble?
And so, she made her daughter a cloak of thorns and knit it together with threads of worry. “You must always wear this cloak,” she told her daughter. “If you dare to take it off, your skin will grow brittle and hard and fall off and your body will fall down, never to get up again.”
And so the little girl who loved to laugh and sing forgot the power of her own voice beneath the weight of the cloak as she took each step. She was careful to always look out for trouble.
One day, when the little girl had become an old woman and no longer needed lead lined shoes to keep her feet firmly planted on the ground, or a cloak of thorns with worries sewn into every stitch to keep her taking life seriously, went into the forest to gather firewood for her hearth. As she carefully picked up wood to place into her basket, she saw a child dancing and heard her singing amongst the trees.
The sound of the child’s voice that sounded like birdsong, the sight of her spinning and twirling about set her heart racing so fast she had to sit down in a hollow at the bottom of a tree to catch her breath. But, before she sat down, she had to check the ground for spiders, and sweep away all the dirt and place a cloth upon the earth to keep her clothes from getting dirty. Worried that a wild animal would come and attack her, she sharpened one of the pieces of wood in her basket into a spear and placed her back firmly into the tree trunk where she sat.
But still it wasn’t enough.
She was worried that an animal might sneak up from behind her, or a storm would blow in and knock down the tree beneath which she sat.
“Oh this life is such serious business,” she sighed as she moved her body deeper into the open space at the bottom of the tree trunk. “It is wise to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground at all times. It is right to always look out for trouble.”
And as she sighed and kept shifting her eyes around, making sure she was safe from attack, she forgot all about the little girl laughing and dancing in the woods.
And the animals never paid her any attention. They didn’t see her tucked into the tree’s trunk and they were busy anyway. They were doing what animals do in the woods and did not have time for an old woman sitting in a tree, glaring out at the world, fearful of every noise.
And the little girl never saw the old woman sitting in the tree trunk either. She was too busy dancing and singing to her heart’s content as she continued on her way through the forest.
Slowly, over time, the old woman fell asleep to dream of a dancing girl with a voice like birdsong who long ago danced in the woods and sang to her heart’s content.
And as she dreamed, the seasons turned and the leaves fell and snow blanketed the earth and her heart grew still until only the sighs of the wind could be heard whispering through the leaves.
She sits there still today, tucked inside the tree, her body entwined in the ivy that spun its way around her like a cloak of thorns knit together by worries.
I originally posted this story in 2016. This story wrote itself from a dream. It has many meanings for me. I’m curious to know what it means for you?
Please, do share your thoughts.
Author: Louise Gallagher
I believe in wonder. I believe we are all magnificent beings of divine beauty. I believe we can make a difference in this world, through every act, word, thought. I believe we create ripples with everything we do and say and want to inspire everyone to use their ripple to create a better world for everyone. I'm grateful you're here.