Thursday, February 11, 2010

Let the story reveal the secret

Like the songs we find ourselves humming at odd moments, the stories we invent can end up winding our own stories, our hidden tales, all around us. Our invented images reflects the wilderness in our hearts. In the stories we make up, we often end up telling a second tale as well, one hidden in the brambles of metaphor.

Sometimes a song or a story are just that -- but occasionally they are deeper and far more insight revealing.

My Dad used to tell me a bedtime story that he had made up. I have never told it to anyone else. This is -- honestly -- the first time I have told it.

It is a lovely afternoon. The sun is bright and buttery and the skies are dazzlingly blue. A little boy from the village decides to go walking into the woods. He enjoys climbing a few lofty trees, wading in a rippling stream, picking sweet, wild berries. He walks and he wanders, going further and further from home, following one shiny moment after another. There are chipmunks to chase, birds to whistle with, and a young deer to follow through the bracken.

Before he knows it, time has passed, and it is getting dark. He turns to head home, but wait -- where is home? He confidently sets out in one direction, only to realize that it is growing darker and nothing is familiar. He tries another direction, but it all is starting to be confusing, and it is getting very dark.

This is the deep part of the forest, the part where light is a stranger, and the darkness amplifies the night sounds. He hears a bat rush past his face, is startled by the sudden "Whooooo Whoooo" of an owl, and begins to tremble when he hears twigs crack nearby. It is getting cold.

He finds a big tree with room next to its exposed and ancient roots for him to huddle. He starts to cry, softly, so that no creature of the forest will hear. The tears pour down his frightened face.

Out of the darkness he hears a gentle voice. "Little boy, little boy. Don't cry, little boy."

He opened his tear-filled eyes to behold the most beautiful lady he had ever seen. She had long, flowing hair, kind eyes and big angel wings. There was a warm light shining around her like a glow, though she carried no lantern. She gathered him up in her arms, lifting him as though he was as light as paper, and carrying him as if he had been a leaf on the wind. She began crooning a soft tune to him. He began to fel warm, warm and safe.

Little boy, little lost boy
Do not fear. I am here.
Little lost boy, no need to cry
Your guardian angel will take you home.

The guardian angel took the boy home, and he never wandered too far away again.

It always felt a little deus ex machina to me. I was glad the angel had come along in the story, but I didn't really think she did "for real".

Over the years, I began to understand that this story was my father's own Big Metaphor. His soul was trying to tell him and trying to tell me that he had been a lost boy. My father had endured horrific abuse in his childhood. It made him a rough fellow indeed, although he strove to be better than his father. And he surely was. But there was a crack that ran through my father's spirit, a crack that never mended. And through that crack came some sad and angry things. Things only something as powerful as an angel could heal.

It makes sense to ask some questions about stories -- why didn't the boy's parents come get him? Why wasn't he with friends? Why was it not OK to cry?

The stories we tell can be a mirror. When I look at the stories I spontaneously made up for my godson, they featured the adventures of a turquoise and chartreuse female dinosaur named "Emily Brontosaurus" -- a writer's name from a writing godmother. A dinosaur godmother, one of whom it could be said "They do not make them like that anymore! She stood out in a crowd, and was conspicuous whether she wanted to be or not. She wasn't married, wandered around the jungle alone, but always found her way to some wonderful new place to explore and met people. She'd find a monkey to help learn to read, or a pterodactyl with which she could share a spot of tea. She was a cross between Mary Poppins and Auntie Mame. She was, now that I look back, me. But I didn't get lost in the jungle, like my father had gotten lost in the forest. I had adventures there.

But, like my father, we were both pretty much on our own to figure things out.

I wonder about these magical stories, and the archetypes they reveal. They are, as I mentioned earlier, like the songs we find ourelves humming or softly singing that turn out to be telling in some way.

I remember being excited about a date and humming Louis Armstrong's "Give Me A Kiss To Build A Dream On" -- or not looking forward to a visit with my then-in-laws and humming "Fly me to the moon." One nervous occasion had me thinly humming "Don't Worry Be Happy", and a reunion with old colleagues got me humming "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" (That is the real spelling)

Then there are the obvious lovely afterglow times that found me absent-mindedly humming "Natural Woman". A drive past an exes apartment and I was suddenly singing the lyrics to "'Round Midnight".."It begins to tell, round midnight, round midnight ...doing pretty well til after sundown. Suppertime I'm feeling sad - but it really gets bad, 'round midnight....."

Images have enormous power to get us to see the workings of our souls. Our spirits hold them out before us, like flags, waving in front of our conscious minds. Feeling restless? Tel a spontaneous story, or start humming the first thing that comes to mind. You'll find direction. Nervous and not sure why? Try humming. Your soul will speak up. Let the images that are lining up an forming wondrous tales and inventive stories free. Let your own wise soul teach you what you need to understand, and point you in the direction you need to consider.


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