Once upon a time, there lived a very small, very ordinary little girl with an extraordinarily large heart. Her heart was so extraordinarily large, in fact, that no matter what she did, or where she went, it would not, could not, stop loving.
It loved the sun and all four of the great winds, it loved the moon and the stars in their shifting constellations, it loved the rain, and the snow, and those crisp autumn days that tingle in your nose and across your skin like hot cider on a cold night. It loved the birds, and the trees, and the creatures of the woods and the fields and the barren desert, it even loved the buzzing bees. It loved reading in a cozy nook with a cat curled up in its lap, and running through the grass in a crown of snowy daisies, and streaking through the cool ocean waves on a hot, sunny day. It loved to love. But most of all, it loved the people.
Big ones, small ones, broken ones and perky ones, brooding and mysterious ones. The small, ordinary little girl with the extraordinarily large heart loved them all, for what else could she do? Her extraordinarily large heart would not, could not, let her stop.
Now, many small, ordinary girls can naturally have very large hearts, and love most everything. But the thing that made this particular large heart so extraordinary was not that it would not, could not stop loving, but that it could not, would not stop loving, even though this extraordinarily large heart had eyes. All the other mediocre large hearts loved blindly, or at least, mostly blindly. They could love most everything, because they could not see how hard some things can be to love.
You see, if these large hearts could see, they might say the big people were too big to love, and the small ones were to small to waste their time on. They might say the broken ones were too shattered to mend, and their pieces too sharp and dangerous to love, and they might learn the perky ones are only so perky so as to hide how broken they are, too. If these large hearts could see, they might realize that the brooding and mysterious people aren’t really brooding and mysterious at all, but really quite boring, and bored, and too lazy to find any mysteries to brood over. And if these blind large hearts really did have their own eyes to see, they would see that all people have two lives, the lives you see and the lives they hide, and that their dichotomy makes them do foolish, hurtful things, like yelling at small, ordinary little girls that are only trying to love them with their extraordinarily large hearts.
The thing that made this small, ordinary little girl’s extraordinarily large heart so extraordinary was that it did have eyes to see all these things, and still it could not, would not, stop loving. Unlike the blind hearts that loved because they only saw the pretty covers, the extraordinarily large heart loved all the tattered, ripped, and stained pages in between, even if they gave it terrible paper cuts sometimes. The extraordinarily large heart with eyes loved to love, and it loved to love every part of everyone, even the parts that they were ashamed of, because it could not, would not stop.
Because the small, ordinary little girl that had an extraordinarily large heart with eyes loved every part of everyone, everyone loved every part of her – even if they didn’t really want to. Of course, everyone had less extraordinary hearts of their own, and therefore they would not, could not love her all the time; but we must not hold that against them. After all, we cannot all have always-loving hearts. Sometimes, they could even be quite mean to her – so mean that the small, ordinary little girl would cry, and even her extraordinarily large heart would shed a few tears from its clear eyes, though still it could not, would not stop loving, and therefore neither did the small, ordinary little girl.
The small, ordinary little girl lived mostly happily for a long time, loving and being loved by nearly everyone she met. It was a wonderful way to live, surrounded by so many friends, and as she grew, so did her heart, and as her heart grew, it only loved more, and with so much love flowing from the extraordinary heart with eyes, the less than extraordinary hearts also learned to grow their love, until the now less small and ordinary little girl felt like a tree in the center of a garden oasis, surrounded and supported by the beauty blooming around her. Everything was perfect.
But if one thing is certain in life, besides death and taxes of course, it’s that as soon as everything is perfect, it will all disappear. So it was with the now less small and ordinary little girl, though we can say still that she was quite lucky in one respect – unlike many, she realized that everything was so perfect before it was gone. But then again, “lucky” is quite a relative term, and can easily be made “unlucky” with a slight change of perspective and two somewhat strange and pessimistic letters.
See, the now less small and ordinary little girl that had an extraordinarily large heart with eyes went for a swim one day, and on a sudden, a ghastly and malicious storm rose up, the like of which would make even the most salty and hardy of sea pirates quiver like a soaked, shivering kitten in their boots. It swept her and her heart away, laughing at their misfortune and tossing them about before throwing them ashore a tiny, lonesome island, half drowned and wholly alone.
For many days, the now less small and ordinary little girl was full of hope, her extraordinarily large heart with eyes assuring her that certainly their friends would come to their rescue soon. But the extraordinarily large heart with eyes was not blind, like other hearts, and when days had turned to weeks, and weeks had melted into months with still no sign of any living soul, those eyes began to fill, and leak, until the tears fell in sobbing, painful torrents that terrified the now less small and ordinary little girl.
Though it was agony for the extraordinarily large heart with eyes, it could not, would not, stop loving their friends, even if those friends had abandoned them, left them stranded, maybe even stopped loving them back. Because it was not blind, and love with eyes is only able to tell the truth, as everyone knows, it could not lie to itself and the now less small and ordinary little girl. It could not say that perhaps their friends just couldn’t find them, or that they were too far, or that something was keeping them away, because real love will always find that which it pines for, will cross any distance and leap any obstacle to be with that it yearns for. But even with this knowledge, the extraordinarily large heart with eyes could not, would not stop loving them all with its whole being, because it knew that they were worth it – and perhaps that is what wounded it most hurtfully of all. Truly, nothing is so painful as a cherished love that was, but now is stolen, lost, and gone, yet still so precious.
It must be known that the now less small and ordinary little girl did try, and try ever so hard to help her extraordinarily large heart with its bloodshot, weepy eyes to overcome its griefs. But on a desolate, deserted island, there is only so much one can find to do, and the poor extraordinary heart was not to be consoled. At long last, the now less small and ordinary little girl couldn’t take it anymore. She knew it was useless, perhaps she always had, and she was just so very tired, so empty, so full of pain. She knew now that an extraordinarily large heart with eyes could be both an extraordinarily large gift, and an extraordinarily large curse.
“Now, look you here,” she told her heart, her voice stern even as she cradled it with the words. “The way I see it, there’s only two things can be done. Either you have to stop with your sniveling and moping and reminding me how hard love is, or I have to get rid of you and lock you away, because I simply cannot endure this pain any longer. It’s hard enough, living like a castaway on an island, but to do it with a hurt and grieving heart of extraordinary size is far too much to ask of anyone.”
But though the extraordinarily large heart gave a valiant effort to dry its eyes and be light again, it could not, would not stop loving the lost loves so much that it hurt. And so, with new tears of her own upon her cheeks, the now less small and ordinary little girl was forced to fashion a dagger from a singularly huge and sharp seashell on the shore, and cut out her own dear, extraordinarily large heart with eyes. Blood stained the sandy beach and turned the ocean scarlet like a sunset, and every slice burned more deeply than nearly any pain she had ever felt – but even the careful, if less than surgical, removal of her own heart from her chest could not hold a candle to the agony of that same broken heart that could not, would not, stop loving. When at last the deed was done, she cradled it a moment in her hands, then locked it up tight in an old box she’d found, and buried it deep under the crimson sands.
“I should have done it long ago,” she assured herself, “for then it would have been safe, protected from all this grief. It was cruel of me, to selfishly let it see so much. No heart so big should be so burdened by eyes to love and cry with.” And her speech done, heart safely locked away, the now less small and ordinary little girl became the lonely, empty castaway.
For many, many years, the lonely, empty castaway lived on her little island, hollow and lost. Eventually, she forgot her extraordinarily large heart with its heavy sorrows and deeply injured eyes, and with it, how to love at all. She grew cynical, and full of hate. But the pain, she found, it never really went away – it only ached, and ached, and she couldn’t for the life of her remember why she hurt.
As time went on, as it so rudely tends to do, a handful of adventurers or else plain unlucky sailors found their way to our lonely, empty castaway’s island. They attempted to be kind to her, and even offered help, but by then she had become so mean and heartless that she scared them all away. Everyone that visited the island soon left, and after they were gone, the lonely, empty castaway would grieve, and wonder why she could not treat them well, with the kindness they held in their eyes.
Eventually, the lonely, empty castaway gave up entirely. She forbid herself to even look upon the friendly visitors, reminding herself that even if she could reach out to them, they would only leave her again when it was time for them to leave the island. She was meant to be alone – or so she told herself.
One day, a very long while after the lonely, empty castaway had become just that, a kindly, average young boy that had extraordinarily shiny eyes full of adventures was digging for treasure on the beach. As had become her custom in those days, the lonely, empty castaway ignored the kindly, average young boy as best she could. At least, until his shovel struck the lid of an old, locked box, buried in the sand. As his fingers pried it loose and lifted it excitedly into the air, something deep in the mind of the lonely, empty castaway clicked, like a key in its lock. For some inexplicable reason, she needed to open that box, almost as much as she needed to keep it away from the kindly, average young boy, and anyone else that threatened to steal it.
The lonely, empty castaway thundered down the beach, snatching the box from him so harshly that he tumbled backwards, into the sand and surf. It was heavier than she’d thought it would be, and it slowed her down. She knew that the kindly, average young boy would catch her any moment, so she hid sloppily in a copse of thorny bushes, filled with an insatiable desire to open this stolen mystery box.
As we already knew, of course, the lonely, empty castaway discovered an extraordinarily large heart with eyes of its own, gazing up at her with all the pain and wonder of a love that could not, would not stop. In an instant, all came flooding back to the somehow less lonely and empty castaway, and then she was weeping, holding her extraordinary heart tight. With the heart in her hands, she found herself desperate to feel it beating in her chest, longing to love again – love anything, anything at all, even if it meant a hurtful kind of beating.
Without another thought, she pressed it into her chest, filling the empty cavity there, and found, to her great astonishment, that it still fit. The somehow less lonely and empty castaway shivered at the thrill of her own pounding pulse sweeping so foreignly through her veins, and her extraordinarily large heart’s eyes were actually smiling. The love that could not, would not stop flowing filled the girl, and with it came the pain of all her losses – but still it was love, and it was wonderful.
“How can something so terribly painful be so wonderful, all at once?” she cried, clutching her chest. “It’s as if even this pain for all those loves lost were a blessing, too!”
“But of course it is!” A gentle voice whispered behind her, at which the somehow less lonely and empty castaway started, spinning about to face none other than the kindly, average young boy that had extraordinarily shiny eyes full of adventures. “To grieve a lost love is to have had love at all, and by the size of that heart, and the number of tears wetting the ground, certainly you’ve shared an extraordinary amount of love. To lose any love is painful, even agonizing, but to never love at all? That’s a true tragedy.”
The no longer lonely and empty castaway considered the kindly, average young boy’s words carefully, but her heart was already fluttering at the truth of them. He helped her out of the thorny thicket and back to the beach, and she smiled as the warmth of her heart’s love that could not, would not be stopped poured from her fingertips into his.
“But… how did you know all that?” She finally asked, and he smiled a somber smile, full of regrets his extraordinarily shiny eyes full of adventures refused to acknowledge.
“Well, you’re a small, ordinary little girl that has an extraordinarily large heart with eyes, but I’m a kindly, average young boy that has extraordinarily shiny eyes full of adventures. Eyes that can not, will not, stop their dreaming. Unfortunately, adventures are long and hard and dirty things, and one day I realized that I could never finish all of them. Eventually, all the adventures I could never, would never have became too much, and so I covered my eyes, and refused ever to let them look for adventure again. But after a while, I realized how bored I was, just sitting around doing nothing on my own. That’s when it hit me. It’s better to have as many adventures as your life allows than it is to sulk about the ones you’ll miss, and end up having none at all.”
As he spoke, she discovered he was right – she wasn’t the no longer lonely and empty castaway, but the small, ordinary little girl that had an extraordinarily large heart with eyes again. And more than that, she really did want to love again. She even wanted to love the pain that loving caused with a love that could not, would not stop, just like his dreaming eyes.
“I suppose it really is better to try and enjoy the attempt, rather than fail for fear of failing.” she murmured, and suddenly, the boy’s extraordinarily shiny eyes full of adventures lit up brighter than ever before.
“Do… Do you want to go on an adventure with me?” the kindly, average young boy that had extraordinarily shiny eyes full of adventures stammered, extending an inviting, enticing, hopeful hand to the small, ordinary little girl that had an extraordinarily large heart with eyes.
“I would love to.” She breathed, and took it.