I have had trouble getting started on this week’s post. Having recently extolled the virtue of Story as Healer, it seemed only right that I present a balanced view — warning about the Dangers of Story. [Though all of you who read the current headlines about conspiracy theories, Big Lies, etc. have probably already figured out how much damage can be done by manipulating story.]
But then — to be logical — maybe I should first talk about the source of Story’s power….. Why does Story make a difference in the world? And how? And I suddenly realized that I was trying to turn what had started out as an exuberant posting of random thoughts into some sort of coherent Pedagogical Treatise. I could hear my old inner “Recovering-Academic” butting in with his loud authoritative voice: “And just to be safe, remember to include narrow definitions, and counter-arguments, and documentation, and explanatory footnotes, and….”
Hmm…. That’s just the kind of default thought process whose tentacles I am, in the midst of my 8th decade, trying to escape, to outgrow. I can hear Trickster standing behind me, snickering, “Some folks never learn!” And I find myself turning and shouting back in my ugliest playground voice, “Look who’s talking! Takes one to know one!” ….And after that, what’s left to do, but laugh at myself!
Neitzsche reminds us:
"You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star."
To be honest, I have never found chaos to be out of reach. Maybe that’s why Trickster likes to hang out with me.
My computer is in even greater disarray than my hopelessly heaped desk and overflowing book shelves. I’m still trying intermittently to figure out “files” and “folds” and create some sort of order. Several months ago, my screen began to cover itself with little thumbnails images of random documents, new ones popping up occasionally like mushrooms in the damp autumn woods. This morning I happened to notice one of the stray toadstools peering out from behind a screenful of world news. “Coyote Howls” it announced in miniature print. Coyote, of course, shows up in many of my titles but this one seemed unfamiliar so I double-clicked.
It turned out to be a “free-writing exercise” from a workshop I’d taken 7 or so years ago while we still lived in the woods. In “free-writing,” one is given a prompt [this one must have been “Coyote Howled”] and told to write for a designated amount of time [I don’t remember how long the facilitator gave us] without stopping our pencil or pausing to plan. Just let words flow…. It’s always fun to see what emerges.
So, Hooray! Back to exuberance! ….at least for this moment….
THE COYOTE HOWLS
Coyotes howled on the ridge again last night — Their songs lifting and flaming out in colors that my language cannot name. How do I express my own coyote joy in this world?
Coyote dances just out of reach, just beyond the edge of my vision. I try to follow his steps and stumble.
Somewhere beyond the horizon I hear him laughing.
“It took me a thousand thousand years to discern my dance,” he howls. “First you must dance your own dance. Then we can dance together.”
My dance is made of words dropped like stones in a river — sometimes too slippery for firm footing. If I fear falling, I will stay out of the cool waters, play on the safe sandy shore.
Sometimes just one rock can change the river’s course or change the note of its song.
“This is how I play,” says Coyote tossing a stick to catch it again, then dropping it to sniff some scat. “How do you play?” he asks.
As a child I did not hesitate to engage with river and rocks, did not fear that the pebbles I piled up in the waters might wash away or ruin the river. Tadpoles came to nibble my fingers and a crawdad scuttled away across the silty creek bottom. My wrists and ankles cooled on hot August afternoons. My fingers and tee shirt were splashed and striped and smeared with holy mud.
The blessing of water. In Loveland CO, my friend Pam is not allowed to put out a rain-barrel to catch bounty for her garden. The rain belongs to the river and the river belongs to the men with papers to prove their ownership of water monitored, divided, sold to the highest bidder.
“Owning” water — oxymoron. Surely it is not the humans…!
And who owns the stories? Who owns the words?
What water police patrol my desk to keep me from writing?
I will put out a rain barrel and listen as it fills with mercy and kindness like gentle rain. I will hear the plunk of downpour and watch the great crackling electricity riding the clouds.
I will cup my fevered hands and reach in to take a drink, feeling the water splash down my chin, fill my mouth, cool my scratchy throat, join the pulse of my blood.
I will invite the neighbors. I will carry a jug of water to the old old woman who sits among her bundles in the empty doorway.
I shall learn to share my words as joyfully as Coyote shares his song.
Then I’ll go dancing.
P.S. I’m posting every Friday. I hope you are finding something to enjoy in the posts and lots to keep you curious & full of wonder at the amazing world of which we are a part.