The grass was greener than anywhere else she had ever seen it. There was a large garden, an old wooden shack, goats and cows, and a well-furnished house at the end of the pasture. The property was surrounded by white mountains, green hills, and flower fields that made one feel to be in paradise.
The girl was the daughter of a wealthy farmer. Her face was beautiful, and she enjoyed admirers from all corners of the country. Servants took care of her, said sweet things to her, and labored for her so that she could live in comfort.
Her future was bright, safe, and her parents were full of hope that she would marry the worthiest of all admirers. That she would inherit the farm and have children. It was their wish that she never would be in need to worry as their wealth would always back her, even if she would not do a single day’s labor for as long as she lived.
She had it all. All which the common people were so desperately hoping for, working for, even suffering for. And she hadn’t had to do anything for it. Wealth had been given to her, as well as admiration and beauty.
And yet, the wealth, the beauty, the admirers, and her bright future did not make the young woman happy. She smiled often, but just because it was custom to do so. What hid behind her kind smile and her beautiful face, was something no one seemed to look at. And so, only she knew the dreadful feeling of emptiness – the feeling of purposelessness, the feeling of meaninglessness that walked with her wherever she went on the big property.
One evening, the young woman saw a falcon gliding in the air and circling the pasture from above. “The falcon is free,” she thought. “He has no wealth, no property, no possessions. And yet, he is free to go wherever he wants. Fearless is he because he has nothing to lose.” She imagined how the next day, the falcon could already circle over new lands. The sight of the falcon gave the woman courage and hope. For she had everything and still felt empty.
Not many days passed, and one night, when family and servants were asleep, the young woman thought about the Falcon and left her home. She left behind the bright future, the admirers, the security, her wealth – the paradise that she was born into.
She traveled far away to distant lands where she was equal to all others and where she hoped to find what she had failed to find at home.
After a long period of traveling and wandering, sleeping under the stars, begging from farmers and merchants, she arrived in a small town.
Without wealth and without a helping hand, she built a little house at the border of a forest close to the town. It was an idyllic place. The grass was green too, and a small river passed not far from the wooden walls of her new small house.
She was far away from home. In a land where nobody seemed to appreciate her beauty, and she realized how ideals of beauty change, like the trees and plants change, the further you travel. She had no admirers and no servants, and yet, for the first time in her life, she felt happy.
For the first time in her life, she had a task, something to do, something meaningful to create, to build. Nothing was given to her – but she had to work for it. And so she worked. And as she worked, she made contact with the people of the town.
With time she learned the foreign language, she helped and received help. She made friends and fell in love with a poor merchant.
The merchant had no money and had no wealthy family. Neither was he in possession of good property. And yet, the merchant gave her something that no one of her admirers in the past had given to her. And the young woman learned that love was not about pretty faces and lots of gold, but about something that she could not describe in words.
Life wasn’t easy. No, life was challenging. Many cold winter nights they cuddled close to the chimney in the small wood-house that she had once built at her arrival. And many hot summer days they worked hard to provide themselves with food. At times she shed tears of despair, and at other times she felt betrayed by the dry summer days and by the frosty winter nights that wouldn’t allow her to harvest food in abundance and prosper quickly and live in the comfort that she was used to as a child.
She often wished to have great livestock and long fields that prospered with vegetables. Servants that occasionally did the work for her. She sometimes cried. And sometimes she was angry. And yet, she was happy. She was happy because she had a goal. And she learned that happiness not only consisted of smiles and euphoria, but that happiness was beyond her everchanging emotions. Like the sun that must see a different planet crossing his eyesight every hour, and yet never changes its position.
The hot summers always left, and the cold winters did so too, and each year she learned. And each year she became wiser, and each year she and the poor merchant were able to establish a little more comfort for themselves. Hard work pays off if one is patient and open to learn and to adapt.
The years passed, and the youth of the woman slowly faded. And still, she was happy. Like the sun. Fortune and wealth came to them, for they had never given up, and the little house had long turned into an old shack. She gave birth to a girl, and the merchant had built a well-furnished house for her.
Their livestock had grown to a size that not only fed her family, but also many others of the town. Servants served her, and their property had expanded over the years. The fields with fruits and vegetables had become long and wide, and the ground brought out fresh food every few months.
She was an accomplished old woman. She lived in paradise, in her own paradise, at the border of the forest, close to the town. And when she remembered that, once, she had come here with nothing, she felt gratitude and pride about her achievements.
“But if only my daughter could see and appreciate the comfort, I had worked so hard for,” she thought.
Because her daughter didn’t see how lucky she was. She was admired, beautiful, and she had never known what it was like to be poor. Never had she known what it was like to create something from nothing. And never was she able to see what her mother, so desperately, wanted her to see.
It saddened the mother and frustrated the daughter so that, one day, the daughter left and wandered forth into new lands.
Much grief fell over the old woman. For weeks she shed tears and dwelled in disbelief on how her daughter could have left the paradise that she and the merchant had created for her.
She grieved until one evening she saw a falcon circling over the pasture. The old woman then remembered her own upbringing. She thought about the green grass fields of her birthplace, the servants, the goodwill of her parents, the hills and the mountains, and, for the first time in her life, she saw how she had been blind to the beauty and perfection that had always surrounded her as a young woman.
A smile came upon her face. For many years, she had been trying to squeeze her daughter into her own paradise, into her own ideas of perfection.
She smiled more, and a tear of joy escaped from one of her watery eyes when she knew that her daughter will find her own way. Like she had found it. And like the falcon found it every single day.
It takes little courage to build one’s paradise, but faith and goodwill.
It takes a lot of courage, she thought then, to leave someone else’s paradise, to create one’s own.
She too had once learned to be happy when she gave away everything and had nothing to lose. And she prayed for her daughter because she knew that it was not poverty that made her happy, but the task of creating something new.
Copyright 2018, Samuel Ryter (@sams-world), originally published on samryter.com
Photo by Zara Walker