The gift of storytelling is a felt sense of connection that awakens hidden kinships and renews our belonging to the whole community of Life.
Sitting with a group of people around a fire and telling stories opens us to an experience of shared creativity that goes back millennia. Even if we have only just met, our stories have a way of weaving in and among each other. One story will trigger another story, long forgotten but now just as alive and relevant as it was fifteen years ago. That story will contain an image or character that sparks a third story.
The stories come through individuals and have their way with us in a collective mystery. Each story seems to take form and move among us, conjuring themes and shared emotions. As the stories are spun, we create worlds within worlds. Or maybe they create us.
Storytelling feeds on the fire to grow in its full power and mystery. Sitting with the darkness at our backs and the light and heat warming our faces and hearts gives us the courage to be vulnerable and real, which is a rare gift. The fire itself is the best listener of all.
Stories connect. They connect us to our ancestors, reminding us of who we are. They reassure us that we belong to a family line, a place, a history.
Stories connect us to ourselves as we draw meaning from pivotal or even trivial events from our past. They help us to feel an inner belonging to our dreams, our disappointments, the triumphs and losses that define us.
Stories connect us to our culture and hold us to a living set of values, beliefs and conditions that we help to define and perpetuate. They give us a sense of belonging to something greater than our families and ourselves.
These three connections – to ourselves, our family history and our culture – are rich with belonging, yet they aren’t the whole story. There is another connection: to the earth herself, and all the beings of the waters, the land, and the sky. And, yes, we humans belong to that family as well, despite our modern cultural stories that tell us otherwise.
Somewhere in human history we disengaged from the story of the earth and directed all of our storytelling energies to strictly human experiences. When we tell stories of the earth now, we are as outside observers looking in to a world to which we don’t belong.
Fortunately, we have at least two ways back to this connection: a rich tradition of earth stories from oral, place-based people, and ways to engage directly with the land, to exchange stories with meadow and stream, oak and badger, dragonfly and moon.
During the upcoming retreat, the Gift of Story, we will encounter the guardians and guides to the wildness and imagination of the earth. We will listen for stories of belonging and tell them to each other and the land. We will recover forgotten stories and discover hidden connections and new perspectives that we can carry forth as glowing embers into the winter darkness.