The following story is part of an assignment, one that I admittedly felt a lot of resistance towards.
The task was to think about any significant life event that we had endured and re-write the story in the form of a mythical tale. I had so many situations and corresponding metaphors come to mind but chose this one as my final story as it was the most recent. It’s based on quitting a job that felt like it was killing my soul (or tearing my wings off) in order to embark on what became this very course, Transpersonal Art Therapy.
“Follow your bliss. The heroic life is living the individual adventure. There is no security in following the call to adventure. Nothing is exciting if you know what the outcome is going to be.” Joseph Campbell
Once upon a time there lived a fairy named Kiara.
Kiara was a bit of an usual fairy and struggled to find where she belonged. She’d moved so many times throughout her life that she often forgot that she was a fairy. In fact, she joined so many different species, clans and communities, that she felt like she was better at being other people than she was at being herself.
She had long sandy blonde hair that cascaded down her back and always covered her wings. She lived alone in an enormous Kapok tree with large, thick branches that looked like limbs. Inside this tree, she’d carved a tiny hole, just big enough to fit through, as a place to leave her belongings which weren’t much at all.
One day, Kiara sat on her branch and wondered who she could be next. She looked down at the bottom of the forest and noticed an army of ants. She was mesmerised by their ability to move food across large distances, and the way they built gigantic homes of wood chips and mud. The ants were respected by everyone in the forest for they kept it organised and clean. She was inspired by the way they marched forward with such dedication and wished she could be just like them.
That night, as the rest of the forest went to sleep, she flew down and scouted the forest floor for supplies to build an ant costume. She found a black hard shell, a few rough leaves and gathered them back up to her home. Sitting on the branch, she examined her items under the moonlight. Crickets and cicadas hummed a peaceful song as she stitched together an ant jacket. Once it was complete, she held it out in front of her, pulling at the seams to make sure it was durable and flexible enough so it would not damage her wings. She walked back inside and gently put on the jacket, carefully placing it over her delicate wings. She zipped it up and looked at herself in a small mirror, staring back at her was a determined little ant.
The next morning Kiara woke up excited to join the ant army. She gently zipped up her jacket and carefully climbed down the tree. She marched towards the head of the ant army. Confident and excited.
“Oh, hello sir, so pleased to meet you. I really admire the army you have created here and was wondering if I could join? I have experience w-“
“Sure,” the head ant replied abruptly, pointing towards the army, “go!”
Kiara stood there confused.
“Now!” he screamed.
She jumped and dashed over to join the army.
For many weeks, Kiara worked hard, growing weaker and weaker with each passing day. She could not understand why or what was happening to her. This was what she wanted, after all, so why did she feel so alone and powerless?
One day, while she was working under the hot sun, Kiara stopped to take a breath. She sensed a flurry of activity in the tops of the trees above her and looked up, squinting at the glaring light. It was three fairies humming and singing, each of them letting off sparkly dust that dropped on Kiara’s face like energising cold mist. She felt a burst of inexplicable energy and froze in place.
“Hey! Get back to work!” the head ant shouted.
Kiara opened her eyes and noticed she had fallen far behind the pack. She ran to catch up with them, feeling slightly embarrassed. As the day went on, she could not stop thinking about the fairies. She didn’t feel like a ‘real’ fairy herself, and never really did. But something strange happened when she saw them, they made her feel alive and free.
That night when she got home, she removed her ant jacket as she always had. This time, however, she did it absentmindedly and accidentally tore her wings. She screamed in agony, the pain was excruciating. All she could manage to do was crawl out onto her branch, lay there and hope that a few drops of cool dewy water could soothe her wings.
She fell asleep and awoke in the night to the sounds of wrestling in the trees. Suddenly, she noticed a black jaguar stretched out in the branch above her. Ever so gently, she got up on her hands and knees and quietly tried to crawl her way inside the tree, hoping the jaguar wouldn’t notice her.
“I can see you,” uttered the jaguar, licking his big paws.
“Oh… hello.” Kiara’s voice faint and barely audible, trying desperately to hide her fear.
“May I ask what a fairy like you is doing pretending to be an ant?” the jaguar asked with a mischievous grin, one eyebrow raised.
“Uh… I don’t know what you’re talking about…” Kiara responded.
“Right. So, I suppose you aren’t curious about the fairies you saw today? You don’t want to see where they live? What they do? Ok then. Goodnight.” The jaguar stood up to leave.
“Wait— no. I mean yes, I would like to know more.”
The jaguar smiled, “Ok. I’ll show you, climb on my back.”
Kiara got up and walked towards the jaguar. She climbed up the tree and onto his silky soft back. His fur felt like black velvet and she held it tightly as he manoeuvred skilfully up through the trees. Eventually, they reached to the very top of the forest. The trees swayed under the weight and the jaguar pointed towards another lush forest way out in the distance.
“See that forest over there, past that waterfall? The fairies live in there. There is a whole community of them.” The Jaguar told Kiara. This forest looked different, it was denser, more connected, and almost illuminated. A buzzing hum seemed to emanate, calming Kiara instantly.
“What do they do there?” Kiara asked.
“Well, they heal. They help every creature in the forest. They make sure that the forest is alive and well, that everyone is fulfilling their purpose.” The jaguar explained.
“Oh… that sounds… interesting.” Kiara felt different hearing this. It was not a feeling of envy. It was a feeling of familiarity, like a puzzle piece finally coming together.
“Why don’t you join, Ms fairy-pretending-to-be-an-ant?” the jaguar teased.
“I’m not a fairy though, I have these wings, but they are frayed and torn. I don’t know what I am anymore.” Kiara eyes began to fill with tears.
“Hey now,” the jaguar leaned down and tenderly slid Kiara off his shoulders, so she was sitting beside him. His voice was gentle and slow, “finding our way is always difficult. Sometimes we want to be other people or have ideas of who we need to be. But we have to be who we really are and embrace it fully. After all, you are the only ‘you’ there will ever be. Your wings are frayed and torn because of that ant jacket, you need to give your wings time to heal and embrace your true self.”
Kiara looked up at the jaguar, his eyes like pools of emerald green. She’d always been taught to avoid jaguars because they are dangerous. Yet here was a jaguar who was not only compassionate and kind but was seeing her for who she truly was.
That evening the jaguar dropped Kiara back home. No more words were spoken between them, there was no need. Kiara knew what she had to do. The jaguar winked at her before disappearing back into the darkness of the forest.
Kiara never returned to the ant army, and no one came looking for her. Instead, for the first time in many years, she stayed at home to rest and heal her broken wings. She knew she needed to be strong enough to endure the journey to the fairy forest. It would be complicated and difficult to get there, but she was determined to go.
The day finally came when her wings healed. She packed her things in a small bag and wrapped it around her body. It was a bright, warm afternoon and the air smelled different. She was nervous, but in a way she’d never been before. It was a nervousness that was coated in excitement, adventure and longing. She took a moment to thank this place she’d called home for a few months; looking around at every creature in the forest; the birds chirping, the frogs jumping, the caterpillars crawling. She gazed down at the forest floor, watching the ants march onwards as the always did and felt a surge of relief.
She flew to the very top of the forest and waited in the open air, one last moment to catch her breath. She looked down and caught eyes with none other than the green-eyed jaguar. He was laying lazily in a tree, his long black tail waving back and forth. He looked up at her with a knowing glance, ‘let the adventure begin!’ he called out. She smiled. Under a deep breath, she repeated back,
Let the adventure begin.