Once upon a time, there lived a young woman named Cecilia. She lived in the same village where she’d been born, and where her mother had been born, and her father, and their mothers and fathers. She knew everyone in the village. She knew every house in the village. She knew every nook and cranny of the village. And she was bored.
“I have lived here my whole life,” she thought. “I have seen all there is to see. There are no more surprises. No beauty. Just hard work and the same people I have always known.”
So Cecilia decided to visit the old wise woman who lived in the forest. The wise woman had traveled the world. Her cottage was filled with mementos of her travels, brightly colored fabrics covering the walls, stacks of books and journals and letters, and drawings of all the buildings and people the wise woman had seen. Cecilia knew that the wise woman could help her leave the village to find a better life.
So Cecilia traveled into the woods she’d known her whole life. It took a while to get to the wise woman’s cottage, but the path was familiar, well worn and easy to follow.
Cecilia explained her problems to the wise woman: “I have lived here my whole life. I have seen all there is to see. There are no more surprises. No beauty. Just hard work and the same people I have always known.”
The wise woman nodded and said, “I will help you.”
“You must come to my cottage each day for a month. I will tell you of my travels, of all the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met. At the end of the month, you will choose where you would like to go.”
Delighted with this plan, Cecilia agreed. As she left the wise woman’s cottage and traveled the long path back to the village, she felt happier than she’d felt in a long time. And she couldn’t help but notice that the sunlight shining through the tree branches was lovely, and the sound of the birds singing was beautiful.
Every day for the next 30 days, Cecilia traveled to the wise woman’s cottage to hear stories of all the places the wise woman had traveled. Cecilia learned about the fabrics in the cottage, and the books, and the drawings. She heard stories of beautiful landscapes, fascinating men and women, and buildings with centuries of history.
And each day, Cecilia walked the familiar path back and forth to the wise woman’s cottage. With so much time spent walking the same road, she noticed things she’d never noticed before: little blue flowers that bloomed along the path; busy squirrels scurrying back in forth in the woods; the fresh, crisp scent of the pines. She noticed the difference between the woods in the morning and the woods in the late afternoon, how the air on her skin felt different, how the sunlight seemed sharp and clear on her morning walk but soft and hazy in the afternoon when she made her way home.
When she got back to the village each day, Cecilia couldn’t help but smile at the neighbors she’d known since childhood. Didn’t Mrs. Applebee seem a lot like the Italian innkeeper the wise woman had just been telling her about? Cheerful and generous, always willing to bake a pie for a birthday. And wasn’t Mr. Thompson a lot like the French cook the wise woman had met inGreece? A little bit grumpy, a little bit shy. And when she smiled at them, they smiled back and asked her about her day. Cecilia found she had a lot to say. And her neighbors had a lot to say too.
And so the days passed.
On the 31st day, the wise woman said, “We have spent our month together. You have heard my stories of travel and adventure. I have seen the world. But there is one place I have not told you about. Do you know the place I mean?”
And Cecilia knew at once. “Yes,” she replied. “You have not told me about your adventures here. You have not told me about your life in the village.”
The wise woman said, “I have traveled the world. But I choose to live here. Do you know why?”
There was a silence between them while the wise woman waited.
Finally Cecilia nodded. “Yes, I do. I have lived here my whole life. I thought I had seen all there was to see. I thought there were no more surprises. I thought there was no more beauty. Just hard work and the same people I have always known. But I have learned that the people I have always known are full of surprises. I have seen that there is beauty in the path I walk every day. Now I know there is always more to see.”
And the wise woman smiled.