your ordinary life is a fairy tale
and that means it's the best kind of real.
You ever feel like the wolf is at the door?
Worried about the big bad wolf?
A wolf in sheep's clothing?
What is it about the wolf, that one poor creature can embody so much of our mythos of fear?
Well, let's see... when you make your living by herding, the wolf may be a very real enemy.
I'm not talking about wolves, though. Not real ones. Not like the gorgeous youngsters in the photo (Alaskan wolves, rescued last spring-- either abandoned or orphaned -- now living at the Minnesota Zoo).
I'm talking about the way we make the Wild into a bogeyman, the way we make ourselves small and safe. Small and safe is not what a storied life is about. Fairy tales rarely reward the small and safe. It is especially the one who ought to be small, the one who ought to be safely tucked into a role or a marriage or servitude, who steps into the forest and starts a magical, life-changing journey.
I've recently started some work with a few kind, willing guinea pigs, working with folktales as a window into our lives. I did some work like this at a conference a few years ago with two wonderful women, and I've reworked the process to do one-on-one. One question we ask, one that I have asked children and adults time and again, is, "Where are you in the story?"
When the wolf is at the door, can you ask yourself, who am I in this story? Do I want to be the one cowering on this side, or the one who faces the wolf? Am I the wolf?
And if you are already in the belly of the beast, how will you get out?
Remember, you have a chance to decide. Once you recognize where you are, you can decide whom you will be.
And maybe the wolf is just a pup; maybe she wants some food. Or perhaps he's just walking through his forest, just as you walk through yours.
Want stories like this, audio stories, and an invitation to a free storytelling ecourse? Sign up for my mailing list.
There are all kinds of wonderful pages, telling me how I ought to title my posts, and what I ought to write about to gain followers and readers. While I deeply appreciate everyone who takes the time to read my words here, I have to let you know, I'm not that kind of blogger. My blog isn't the product. I am learning to see myself as a business person, and I know that it's important to do things that drive sales and engage customers. It's a good thing to do.
But I can't bring myself to make that the focus here.
What I really want to tell you today, is that 365 days ago, my phone rang and my world changed. My wonderful mother, loved by so many, had slipped away in the night. She'd replied to a facebook message I'd written the night before. By morning, she was gone. She was sixty-six.
My mother taught me so many things that have kept reverberating over the past year. Simple things -- wear a hat when it's cold; wear a slip when your skirt is a little too "hey baby!"; gargle with salt water for a sore throat; Santa likes carrot cookies -- and more complex things. My mother taught me that when there is a long road in front of you, a story will keep you awake and shorten the hours.
I wish so much that she'd gotten to see her grandson play baseball. That she was here to see the birds and flowers this spring. I wish she still had this necklace tucked away in her jewelry box, the one I had admired for years, the one she said I could have when she died. I wear it, and think of her.
My mother told me all kinds of stories. She told me the entire plot of Anne McCaffrey's The White Dragon on a car trip to visit her parents. She told me about the time her hand got caught in the car door, and her uncle didn't notice and started driving away. Mom told me the story of how happy she was to wake Christmas morning as a child, and find her favorite cousin sleeping next to her, having arrived late in the night. Story, after story, connecting me to my family, my heritage of stories.
I try to tell the stories to my son. The stories want to live, and to be told, so the people in them can live on.
I learned from those stories. I learned to be brave, and kind, and connected. I learned to believe in magic and to trust in the goodness of people. I miss my mother terribly and painfully, but in the stories she told me, she is always near.
do you want to learn more about telling stories to children? want to make your homeschool time richer and more fruitful through wonder and delight? wish you could create more magic for the children in your care as a sitter, teacher, or grandparent? I'm offering a special seven-day ecourse to those on my mailing list. sign up, and get the link to join the course. Thank you!
I'm almost afraid to tell you, but I'm telling you now.
Beginning on May 10, I'll be offering a 7-day FREE ecourse. It will be 7 emails, three with tips and ideas for telling stories in your home and homeschool practice, for your class or the kids you babysit, your grandchildren, or your friends; three with audio stories told by me, and one introducing it all. It will be simple, lovely, flawed, and fun.
And it will be free.
BUT I'm only offering it to my mailing list right now. And I'm only offering it for free one time. Why? Because I'm a mercenary, money-grubbing ne'er-do-well? Nah. I mean, if you want to think that, okay, but really, it's because I think this is really good stuff, and it's worth a lot more than nothing. I'm putting my best tips and ideas from years of storytelling, parenting, and Waldorf teaching into these emails and stories.
It's my gift to those brave souls who press the button up there at the top and generously welcome my little emails into their inboxes.
After May 10th, you will still get my free audio story when you sign up, and I'll still be really grateful.
Already on the list? You'll find the sign-up email in your inbox tonight!
Can't wait to share all this with you!
Do you ever say to yourself, "I'm starting something new! A new chapter starts today in the book of me! I'm going to be a new person, starting now! Everything is changing!" and then, three days later, you're in your jammies, zoned out on facebook, eating entire bags of Lundberg's brown rice cakes, wondering where all that momentum went? No? Just me?
It happens to me a lot. I get this whoosh of power and energy, and I get really excited about a new project or exercise regimen or foodway, or I feel super compassionate and I just love everyone, and I want to do amazing things in the world. Then the laundry piles up, and I wake up late, and I yell at the dog... and it all fizzles out. Stephen Pressfield calls this resistance. I call it blind, back-pedaling terror.
To Start a New Chapter, do this:
The voices sound like this : "It isn't safe. No one will love you if you grow and change. You're failing. You'll fail again. You have bills to pay and Responsibilities. YOU"RE DOING IT WRONG!!!"
I think I've mentioned those voices before. And I've talked about starting over, and a fresh start. It's a recurring theme here. Life is a constant dance of renewal; we start over, and over, and over, and over. Every day, every hour. But this time, this time I really mean it. I'm laughing at myself now. Because I say that every time. What's different now?
What's different is that I am taking action. Real, concrete action. I am not sitting around, wishing I could make something happen. I am feeling such fear, and moving forward anyway. I have help this time around, too. I have a group of wonderful women who have agreed to be guinea pigs for one thing, a business mentor who is smart and funny and has cute dogs (dogs help any venture!), the support of my awesome wife, and a new sense of determination.
The stakes are a little higher. I'm eager and scared and joyful and a little nostalgic for when I could just get up and go to work, but this is so important. This time, I hear the call, and I have to rise to meet it. I've been holding back so long, out of fear and a need for security, but Life doesn't need that. My gifts are needed in the world. That's why I'm here. How dare I hold anything back?
And it goes for you, too. Your gifts are needed in the world. That's why you're here. How dare we hold anything back?
ed. note: this post got less than half the views of the last one. I laughed when I saw that -- looks like people just aren't into posts with negative words in the title, or maybe facebook hides them from you. So, I'm changing the title. ha! Take that!
I went to bed around noon today. After a job interview, I went to the minute clinic, and found out I have strep. I get strep usually in the spring. I don't know why. Maybe it has something to do with my throat chakra being off, or something like that. It could be allergies making me more susceptible. I don't know. The point is, I went to bed. And despite the efforts of my son to rouse me, I stayed there for a long time.
For some reason, I thought that maybe I wouldn't feel so yucky. Maybe, I would feel better once I take in that first dose of antibiotic. Just the opposite. Fever, chills, aches...
Why am I telling you this? Is it to get sympathy? Not really, though sympathy is welcome. So are cups of People's Organic morning elixir or tea or honey and lemon. No. I want to tell you that even feeling plain awful, and sitting in the car throughly son's baseball practice so I don't infect anyone, I still want to create. I want to make something. I'm pushing through the resistance and just doing it.
Illness is wreaking havoc on my self-censorship.
Here I am. Resisting the resistance and my illness both. Showing up.
By the way... I got the job. Part time, doing what my 12 year old self dreamed I'd do.
Strep? You can't keep me down. Not for long. Now, I'm ready for another nap.
I had never seen a banyan tree. This one, in Cypress Gardens in Florida, is not particularly old, but it is massive and extraordinary to the eyes of this midwesterner. Banyans are single-tree forests. From the branches hang down these searching, grasping fingers of root. The roots travel down to the earth, and a new trunk forms. Each spreading branch is supported by dozens of trunks.
The tree extends its reach by reconnecting with the earth. It taps into greater sturdiness and support again and again.
One tree becomes a whole forest.
I am not particularly good at seeking out support, at regrounding or tapping into the Source with anything resembling a disciplined rhythm.
Last week, my son and I traveled to Florida to spend time with my aunt and to have a vacation. My wife was the catalyst for this; she sought out the tickets, bought them, and told me when it was settled. She knows me; she knows that I would dither and hem and haw, that I would be too timid to spend the money and just go. So she sent us off to paradise for five days. The tickets were non-refundable.
It was paradise. The sun, and the heat, and the beauty. The ocean. Family. I could feel my heart swelling and growing stronger, fed by the rhythm of the waves, and by ease and kindness and love in beautiful surroundings. We spent Easter at an amusement park. We rode a fan-powered boat down a river and saw a heron's nest high in a tree with the babies lifting their long beaks to their mother. We rode the waves and let them batter us.
One morning, we got up early and gathered at a beach parking lot to await the arrival of a long white van. In the van were two big, black tubs. In the tubs, huge loggerhead turtles, ready to go home to the sea. I held my son's hand as we watched the people who had cared for the turtles as they recovered from whatever injuries had led them back up onto the land, carried them down to the waves. The first of the two turtles turned away from the rush of water for a moment, and then turned back, pushed off, and was gone. The second did not hesitate at all. She plunged forward and dove under the bitter-salt water and away. Home. There was an ancient wisdom in the way they slipped so trustingly back into the sea. I was witness to deep magic that morning.
Five days, and a beautiful reunion with some old friends before the flight home, and then we were back. Minnesota welcomed us with cold, and damp, and snowflakes yesterday, but today, it was brilliant and warm.
I am still recovering my rhythm here at home, trying to find my way back into the day-to-day. This vacation followed my son's spring break from school, so we were already topsy-turvy before we left. I can't really remember how to cook food for my family or how to get anything done in a day. School will come again on Monday, and I'll go back to work, and life will come back into flow.
Perhaps I have it backwards. Perhaps it's not that the tree seeks out support from the earth as it grows. Perhaps the earth calls to the tree, pulls the tendrils of root downwards, whispers to the twisting handfuls of longing fingers, "just settle here. Grow into this place." Maybe the tree simply allows the connection to happen, and finds that it was the right place to lean into support all along.
And do you see what else there is? There are bromeliads living in the nooks and crannies of the tree. Other living beings can live on those reaching roots and trunks.
So many creatures or people or little delicate plants, or all three, can shelter in its arms. The banyan is supported, and it can thereby offer so much.
I'm a little dizzy on metaphor right now. I think I'll just keep living with this banyan, and with the insistent push of the Atlantic waves, and with the golden light of evening on the pink flowers, and the songs of the mockingbirds, and let springtime happen around me. It's a good time to be alive.
Sara is a storyteller, writer, artist, teacher, wife, mother, and singer living in Minnesota. I write about storytelling, and about living a life with stories.