The feral girl remained living on the edges of the village for another three months, an unseen shadow flitting in and out at the periphery of the villagers’ lives. Gradually, with tentative patience, she learnt more about the inhabitants of her new world.
She decided to pick out individual people and follow their lives for a few days at a time. She found it easier to decipher their existence when she could concentrate on just one person rather than the cacophony of several people all at once. She studied their appearance, their posture, the way they moved their bodies and gestured when they spoke. She studied their words and how they acted around the people they were talking to. She studied how they seemed when alone compared to when with others. She crept into the village at night to watch them sleeping and sense the secrets held in their dream worlds.
Over time she realised that if she maintained a clear focus and a stillness within herself she could begin to feel what and how and who each person was, just as she could feel the being-ness of the mountains and trees. As she slowly, softly, gently began to feel her way into the minds, bodies and hearts of each person, she created a delicate thread of connection with them. When she shut out all the confusion of their complicated lives, their routines and paths that criss-crossed in so many different directions, she became less disorientated and more interested in the intimate detail of each person. One by one, the people started to make sense to her, and one by one she started to feel something for them.
Some of the villagers were a joy to study. She loved the children who were so soft in their characters, so bright in their energy, so alive and in touch with the world around them. She longed to jump out from her hiding place to play with them, just as she played with the wolf cubs. And some of the adults were astonishing to her. She felt such strength in some, such bubbles of laughter in others, such quiet patience, such fiery resolve… so many different ways of being. She suddenly felt very small herself, and almost a little embarrassed; who was she when surrounded by these colourful, knowledgeable giants? She fell in love with some of the adults while at the same time doubting that she had anything to offer them which could make them love her in return.
Other adults surprised her in a different way. Strangely, their inner and outer worlds did not match. On the outside, they displayed certain traits of character which were not the same as the currents of thought and feeling hidden within them. The feral girl had never experienced this before; an eagle was an eagle on the outside and inside, a flower was a flower in its being as much as its appearance. Not so with all the humans. She discovered that some people displayed aggressive, even brutal characters, yet when she sunk beneath these layers of hardness she found a soft pain within, like that of a child whose toys had been broken and could not be fixed. Others who appeared so large and powerful as they gave orders or sneered at their fellow villagers were often crumpled and ashamed inside. Others who were quiet and subdued in their daily lives were sometimes seething with rage beneath their placid exterior, or frozen in a state of fear. Some people smiled their way through the whole day yet inside she found deep pools of watery sadness which she could have swum in for miles.
The feral girl also discovered how diversely the villagers felt about the world around them. She had assumed that all creatures could sense the ebb and flow of life, be moved by its rhythms and feel the fine connecting threads that wove their way between everything. She could tell that some of the villagers experienced this; when she peeked into their inner world she saw swirls of light, shade and colour all dancing together. But some of the humans felt very differently. There was a gap in the thread between them and the world which made their relationship to it subtlety different. They were active within it, and smart too, but their action was all action; they were constantly doing things to it. The feral girl marveled at their invention; some of the results of their doing were a wonder to behold. But she could not understand how they could live without being able to just be in the world. Were they lacking something? Or was she the one lacking the openness to see they were just different from her and the life she had so far experienced?
She understood now why she had felt so disorientated when she first encountered the villagers. Never before had she come across creatures with such marvelously varied ways of being, feeling, thinking and doing.
As time passed, the feral girl felt the threads of connection to each of the villagers growing inside her, weaving their way out of her body, pulsing through the air and flowing into each and every one of them. Her feelings were akin to her feelings for the wolves, birds, bears and butterflies. Something stirred in her being; she wanted to reach out to the villagers, but she was not sure how. Although she had come to know them intimately they still scared her. Some scared her because she felt so small in comparison to them while others scared her because she feared what they might do to her if she revealed herself to them.
So she decided to creep into the villagers’ lives at night to leave them little tokens. She left each one a white flower on their pillow as they slept. She danced around them weaving silken movements in the air to connect with their dreaming minds. She whispered to them of her life in the forest to share her life with theirs. Over time, her tokens of white flowers were remarked on by the villagers. Some people treasured these mysterious gifts, others gave a knowing smile thinking they had guessed who left them, others were angry that someone had crept into their hut at night without their knowledge. But no one guessed the truth, no one remembered the feral girl’s midnight dance or her softly whispered words. No one sensed her presence among them.
The old man with the white beard and hair, and the young blue eyes that sparkled like sunlight on ocean waves, had been waiting patiently for her. For three months he had watched her, smiling to himself at her antics and knowing that soon, very soon she would arrive to study him. At last she came to his home, the last dwelling in the village, to complete her studies, little knowing that she was about to learn lessons which would surpass anything she had ever learnt before…
The old man was about to affect the life of both the feral girl and the villagers in as sure but gentle a way as water can affect the hardest immutable rock…