(I’ve narrated this story and published it on YouTube! Go check it out if you would rather listen!)
The girl sat on a nice outcropping, perched over the gentle creek as water passed beneath and ahead of her. Her pale legs dangled like wind chimes in the breeze, which was as lazy and timeless as the water that flowed on, ever onward, towards distant falls.
As always, she brought three of the best stones she could find. Ones that could, with luck, skip all the way across the water and onto the beach on the other side. Three stones. One for each undesirable piece of herself.
An owl peered at her from the branch of a nearby tree, cocking its head to and fro as it judged her and her stones. The pieces of herself that she held so dear.
“What do you think to do with those stones?” The owl said from his lofty seat. The girl had never heard an owl speak before, but this one certainly had. His voice was cool and methodical, as if he were some distant cousin to the creek he lived near.
“Whatever could you mean, owl?” the girl replied. “Certainly you have seen travelers come by this creek with their stones to toss across this creek. I am sure I am not the first girl to stop by here.”
“Certainly not,” he said. “I have seen many a girl travel to this outcropping and toss her burdens into the water. May I ask what drove you here to do the same?”
The girl had no wish to confide her troubles to anyone, especially no owl. “How could an owl possibly understand my troubles?” she asked. “As I am sure I could not understand an owl’s troubles.”
“I understand that when a stone falls upon water, it always sinks eventually,” the owl reasoned. “For all I may appear to lack, it seems I know something that you do not.”
The girl made a face and turned away from the owl. “Of course I know that,” she said angrily. Then, she looked back to the owl, who had not seemed upset by her response. “But these are no mere stones. They are the pieces of me that I do not like,” the girl confessed.
The owl hooted in satisfaction. “Of course they are,” he said. “That is why you wish to toss them into the creek, never to be seen again.”
“I am not like you, owl,” the girl said. “You need and treasure everything you have. Without your wings, you could not soar through the wind as you pleased. Without your claws, you would not be able to land once you found your way home. And without your feathers, you could not stay warm and cozy as you slept.
“I have none of these things,” she continued. “But I have burdens I do not wish to bear. If I can throw these stones all the way across this creek, it means I will overcome that burden. If I fail and it sinks into the creek, then it means I must carry it longer.”
The owl considered this for a moment, then nodded. “This seems rather foolish,” he said.
The girl frowned at this. “It seems no more foolish than a girl speaking with an owl.”
“It seems rather foolish,” the owl said again. “For you are asking the creek to release you of your burdens. You see, by carrying these stones and tossing them into the creek, you are not removing these burdens. You are simply forcing the creek to bear them.”
“Now who seems foolish!” the girl cried. “What burden can a creek possibly bear?”
“Why, the creek bears all the burdens of those who have come before you,” the owl replied. “And soon, the creek will no longer be able to bear all of them. If enough girls like you come to this outcropping and toss their stones into the creek, soon the stones will no longer fall into the water, but instead on top of each other. The creek will be no more, because it will no longer be able to hold the burdens of others, and it will die.”
“But what if I throw these stones, and all three of them land upon the other side, joining the stones on the beach?” the girl asked.
The owl hooted again, neither happy, nor mad. “It is even worse. If you throw the stones and all three of them land upon the other side of the creek, then you are forcing the beach to carry your burdens. If enough girls like you come to this outcropping and toss their stones across the creek, then the beach will cease to be. It will become so overcrowded and heavy with the burdens of others, it will fall into the creek, and it will die. But now, if the heavy burden falls upon the creek, both the beach and the creek will die.”
The girl looked at her stones, guilty because she supposed the owl was right. She did not want to kill the beach or the creek simply because she did not want to carry these stones. “What would you suggest I do, dear owl?” she asked. “I still do not wish to carry these on my own.”
“It is simple,” the owl said. “You must learn to cherish these stones not as burdens, but as treasures.” And as he said this, he leaped down from his perch onto the outcropping beside her. He took her stones, and with one of his claws began scratching on them.
In a moment, he presented the stones back to the girl, each with a unique carving upon it. One bore the carving of a wing. Another, the carving of a claw. And the last carving resembled a feather. “With these stones,” the owl spoke, “you will learn what it is that makes you special. The stone with a wing will guide you on your path. A path not without burden, but with purpose. The feather will lighten your step, not so it is without troubles, but so it is happy even with them. The claw will help you carry these burdens, and it will also allow you to carve the stones of others, so that they, too, may turn their troubles into treasures.”
The girl smiled brightly at the owl and thanked him for his words. Without another word, she scooped up her stones and turned away from the creek and the beach, burdens in hand, and yet light of foot.