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Archive for the ‘storytelling’ Category

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A neighbor is freaked out. There are rats in his roof. He blames it on the wood pile next to our house, even though the rats have had homes on the hill behind our homes long before we both lived here. I look at the news. My heart saddens seeing the devastation in the streets of Syria, a ruin of broken buildings and people. I watch a video about a gay teen suicide and cry. I am in a coffee shop in a new town, chatter, chatter, noise, jazz, and espresso machines hissing.

In the midst of the chaos I become a tree. I feel roots growing out of my feet, breaking out of my boots into the rich, moist earth. I feel the earth energy flowing up my trunk, into my branches that bust out of the walls and roof reaching for the aquamarine sky. My branches burst into fragrant blossoms, vibrant green leaves unfurl.

In the midst of the chaos, I can root myself. I can use my imagination. I can be a tree. I can imagine releasing excess energy through my feet into the earth. By doing this I can come back to myself. I can find my center.

When we feel ourselves pulled or drawn into emotional drama, or anxious it is a sign. We can shift things instantly by using our imagination, by becoming a tree, or remembering nature. It is easy for me to imagine being out in the woods, or imagine feeling the rain falling lightly on my cheeks. I can imagine tasting the rain on my tongue, and smelling the freshness of the air and feeling the aliveness of the grass, earth, trees, and leaves all around me.

If I am at home I can go into the garden, stand on the earth, or near a tree, or sink my hands into a pot of earth and sing. I don’t have to get frazzled, caught up in the drama. I don’t have to shrink, instead, I can choose to be more of who I am and who I am becoming.

I wonder how much easier life and chaos can be to navigate when we find our grounding? What would our lives be like if we could each discover what our grounding is? The questions to ask are: “What brings me home to myself in the midst of chaos? What empowers me? What grounds me to myself and to my center?”

Being able to find our grounding doesn’t mean we never lose our center, maybe in some ways it is good that we do, so that we know what it is like to lose our center and to be in chaos. Chaos comes with all change, with all acts of creation.

What helps you ground and center in the midst of chaos? When you know, you can empower yourself. So when you are in the midst of chaos, or when you feel the hooks of drama dig into you,  use the energy as a flag. You can say to yourself, “I’ll be a tree, I’ll remember walking in the woods, and I will root, ground, center, align with more of me, and from this place I will be a light in the chaos.

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I’m so excited to share this with you. One of the most naturally beautiful places in the world to me is Iceland. My daughter is currently going to school there for a semester. On the weekend she went on a historic tour of Iceland with a professor and other students from the Icelandic University. During the tour they stopped at museum where the Tapestry of Iceland is being created. The above photo is of some people stitching the tapestry.

While my daughter was waiting for lunch, she saw the tapestry behind a window. A woman asked her in Icelandic if she would like to stitch a thread into the tapestry. My daughter was first surprised that she understood the Icelandic and that she was asked to participate in such an honor. She was the 3041 person to stitch thread into the Tapestry of Iceland and also got her name recorded!

What excites me about all this is the history being woven, and being woven into Icelandic history. The tour was focused on some of the history of Iceland being told through a Saga, the history and saga were as one woven together. What also amazed me is that there are physical landmarks still in Iceland today that were a part of the history and Saga being told today. The Saga’s and their physical landmarks are kind of like an Inuksuk of Icelandic history.

The significance of the tapestry and so many people coming together to weave it reminds me so much of the Tibetan Story Scrolls, Thanka paintings. In Tibetan history, there were holly men that walked from village to village with these ancient and sacred Story Scrolls. They would stop at this village or that, roll out their scroll and start telling the stories, the history and spirituality all woven together as one, and they would tell the stories for hours. At the end, tears would be streaming down the listener’s faces for something sacred was transmitted. That’s exactly the word that a Chicago dancer I met in Canada many years ago used when referring to the sacred and ancient dances of Tibet, “transmitted”. He said that the dancer would become the deity and in that process transmit the spiritual teachings to the students. I believe something similar and miraculous happens with the Thanka’s, the Story Scrolls of Tibet.

I wonder if that kind of magic and mystery is being woven into the Tapestry of Iceland, and for that matter other tapestries, or Story Scrolls that we create with friends, family, and community. Look at quilts for example; often many hands and many stories have gone into their creation.

When I used to teach through story in schools in Canada, I would have the children create their own Story Squares. In groups of 3 or 4 they would draw a story onto a large square cloth and then be able to tell and share it with the rest of the class later. One of my favorite memories is walking into a school and seeing the Story Squares hung like large prayer flags from the hallway walls.

Whether drawn or sewn, weaving ourselves and our history into cloth, we become aware how we are all threads woven together in the Great Tapestry of Life.

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La Luna

The people of the village use their torches to light up the dark bog and together they remove the heavy boulder off of Mother Moon. Her radiant face shines with such beauty she touches the hearts and minds of all the villagers and fills the bog with illumination. She lifts into the sky and fills the village and the world with light.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes goes on to talk about her insights into the story of “The Lost Mother Moon”. She talks about how the bog in the story represents emotional wounds both in us personally and in our world. She suggests that the way to work with our wounding is not to avoid it, but rather go into it, feel it, be in the center of it metaphorically and meditatively. While being in the center of the wound, feeling with intensity, we can find the light, even if it is just a flicker. We grab that light and fill ourselves with it, we can come back into our lives and into our world being that light for others and ourselves.

After I finished listening to this second cd of “Theatre of the Imagination”, I checked my Facebook page. A friend had posted a story about a man who had gone to a school where there was a tragedy and he stood in front of the school as a bodyguard, helping everyone feel safer. He came everyday to stand as a bodyguard. No one asked him to. No one paid him. He went right into the center of that wound in that school and in that town, and he was a light.

How can we be a light to each other, our world, and ourselves?

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©2012 Vlatka Herzberg

Sienna ran through the forest, deeper and deeper still, sprinting like a deer on the run. She felt the dampness of the mist cloak her, hiding her from the world she left behind. She bent over to catch her breath and noticed a gate, rusted, old, hanging onto its last hinge. Sienna shoved it and it creaked with complaints of being still for far too long. She tiptoed into this hallowed place, aware that she was not alone. Eyes were everywhere watching her. She was afraid to move in case she stepped on someone. “Who goes there?” Amidst the ferns and roots, Sienna saw a large face, moss-covered nose, fern hair, dark slit for one eye, an old tree trunk for the other, roots reaching out stretching, digging deep into earth, searching for light. “It’s I, Sienna.” she muttered. She closed her eyes part way so that she could see through the haze of lashes, soft vision, and then she saw him, or at least she thought it was a him. She caught her breath and hesitated. He smiled. “Fear not child of the forest. You are welcome here.”

Sienna looked around and saw more faces looking at her. “I have wandered into the woods many times, and have never found this place or seen you.” He Who Watches Without Being Seen laughed. “We are seen when we choose.”  “Why today?” Sienna asked. “Why not?” he smiled. “Have you seen the wind dance and the trees laugh?” he asked. “Only in this sanctuary, not in my world. People have forgotten how to dance with the wind and laugh with the trees.”  “Will you?” “Of course.” she said and instantly the wind twirled around her, taking her by the hand. They danced with a fervor, spinning wildly out of control, until Sienna fell to the ground laughing, and the trees laughed with her too.

He Who Watches rumbled with laughter. “What’s so funny?” asked Stone Face. Sienna stopped laughing and looked into Dry Creek. Shrouded by leaves, was a face, oh so smooth, delicate lines for eyes and nose, and a just so mouth, as though someone had brushed it on. “Life.” said Sienna. “Sometimes life is funny.” Stone Face blinked, blank. “Well I don’t think it’s funny. So many humans walk this way and all they see is hard rocks, wet water and lots of green. Seldom do they stop and see what isn’t seen.” “I’m doing it.” smiled Sienna. “Humph.” grumbled the stone. “I know that the stones talk, the wind sings and that when I walk through the forest I am seen.” said Sienna. “What does one person matter?” grumbled Stone Face. “I am not only one. There are many.” “Where?” asked Stone Face. “Here and there, and everywhere and that matters. Sienna smiled. “Humph.” A twig snapped. Stone Face froze.

Leaves rustled, a deer approached. Sienna turned and gazed deep into the deer’s eyes. The deer blinked and shape shifted into a tall woman with a gentle, deer like face, with large, black doe eyes, and soft, long deer like ears. She swept across the creek and gently laid her hand on Sienna’s shoulder. “You have heard our call, and have come.” “Of course.” said Sienna. “Shall we?” asked Deer Woman. “There is a whole Other World waiting to explore.” Sienna followed. Deer Woman guided  her towards a hollow tree trunk, and began to step into it. “Wait.” said Sienna. Deer Woman looked deep into Sienna. Her eyes moistened with tenderness. “See with more than your eyes.” she suggested. Sienna took a deep breath and let go of things needing to be the way she thought they ought to be, and then she really could see. “It’s a portal.” she exclaimed. Deer Woman nodded, extended her hand. Sienna took it gratefully. Together they stepped out of one world and into another.

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Yosemite, ©2010 Theodore Herzberg

Recently, Magik and I went to visit our favorite Madrone Tree. It’s near the umbrella like Oak that creates a canopy of shade. Behind it, and down the hill slightly from the Umbrella Oak is the Madrone. It’s young and vibrant, and every-time I nestle down into its roots and lean against it, the leaves dance and welcome me.

Under the dappled light of Madrone leaves I sang, feeling the light and warmth, the laughter and the joy of just being out here, and reveling in the smell of pungent earth. I sang until my heart was full and Magik started to growl, my faithful guard corgi. I turned to see who was there. It was a deer, listening to my song.

Deer often come to hear me sing, other animals too. I wonder if more of us sang in the woods, if it would draw more enchanting animal encounters.

Yesterday, Magik and I went to visit my husband Theodore at his job site. He is a general contractor and the house he is building overlooks a golf course. Throughout the building process there has been a deer family that sleeps in the yard. Yesterday was the first time I saw them, a mamma and her two babies, nestled in the foundation of where there one day will be a pool.

The mother deer cleaned the older baby, the older baby licked her back, mamma and babe nuzzled, while the young one spotted me. I started to sing softly. The baby deer walked a little closer, her black eyes focused intensely on my face. I continued to sing, soft and sweet, baby deer and I held eyes for a very long time — an enchanting moment, a touch, the song luring the baby deer closer and closer.

I must have lifted my voice a little louder, and the wind carried it down to the golf course, because from way down below I heard, “Hey lady, stop singing.” And then the sound of a golf ball being hit. Mental note, will have to keep the “deer songs” in the woods and not near golf courses.

I stopped singing, turned to walk away, but turned and looked back. The baby deer turned and looked back too. Our eyes held for a moment. A connection was made. As we each walked in our separate directions I wondered how our lives might be different because of our touch.

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On a mound I stand

Spreading branches far and wide

Sap trickles down my bark,

Mixes with earth —

Sap drenched roots

Dig deep down into Coyote Den

Where Silent voices

Wait —

Until Night’s embrace

And Howl

My husband Theodore and I went to Folsom Lake Willow Creek Recreation Area yesterday. We were stunned by the tall pine trees and extra huge pine cones. The pine cones had sap on them that neither of us have seen before.

It made us consider making an essential oil out of it. The color of the sap is golden amber beautiful. The pine cones evoked images of dragon claws. They curled and pointed just like claws.

The first tall pine we encountered was on top of a large mound. Imbedded in the roots was a coyote den. I wondered how they could sleep with hushed voices of humans and the pecking of acorn woodpeckers above their home.

Brilliant blue sky, lake sparkling with so much light you could almost hear it singing, children laughing, we walked over water sculpted stones to admire mushroom like plants with feathery roots and tiny purple flowers that sprayed out like fans.

Theodore and I sat on a bench and listened to the sky, the woodpeckers, the pine, the lake, our hands softly touched, we smiled. A breeze whistled through the pine needles and for a moment, it felt as though the pine trees sighed. Perhaps they too felt a sense of well-being.

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Photograph © 2012 Vlatka Herzberg

Magik and I went for a walk in the woods yesterday. When he starts to run around the house in circles I know it’s time for a long hike. So I chose a longer path that would work us both out. Part way through he was lagging behind and I wondered where all the energy went, but I think he just wanted to sniff and sniff some more. Eventually we made it to the top of the hill and I stopped to soak in the light, the warmth, the breeze and sing to the trees.

Photograph ©  2012 Vlatka Herzberg

Magik of course waited patiently. When I was done, we continued our walk, easier now because it leveled off, so again I gave more attention to the details of my surroundings. To my delight we found branches and feathers. Hands full of twig, feather and stone, hair mussed up by the wind I encountered an athlete and his golden retriever. Judging by his response to me, I must have appeared as some sort of wild woods woman. Magik and I scooted out-of-the-way, and runner and dog sprinted by. Shortly after, I found a spot where Magik and I could rest, thinking that the runner was probably a good ways away, and I could sing to my heart’s delight.

Photograph © 2012 Vlatka Herzberg

I put my crystals on the ground, rose quartz, and serephanite with its beautiful earth green color, and started to sing. Some days I come into the forest with issues in mind that I want to resolve or send healing to, sometimes they are personal issues, or concerns about loved ones, and sometimes they are global issues. This day I just wanted to be with nature. I am learning that in intimate relationships sometimes we “do” things together, and sometimes we just “be” together.

Photograph © 2012 Vlatka Herzberg

Yesterday, my being together took the expression of song and dance. I sat but my arms moved like they were dancing. As soon as I started to sing the wind bellowed. It almost knocked me over. I sang and danced my arms into the wind and it sang and danced right back. I was in full force singing and moving to the music of the forest when Magik started to growl, the faithful guard Corgi that he is. Wow. There was the runner, and his golden retriever. I stopped singing and said, “Oh, I was just singing.” He responded with, “I thought the trees were singing. Your voice carried all the way to the other side of the hill. I was running and I heard this singing, and it sounded like the trees were singing. Then I realized it was a woman’s voice.”

Photograph © 2012 Vlatka Herzberg

As he continued his run, I sat quiet, contemplating the experience, amazed that the trees and the wind had carried my voice, and that it sounded as though the forest was singing. I was quiet for a while just listening to the forest’s song, and then joined in, the two of us singing and dancing together again.

Photograph © 2012 Vlatka Herzberg

Shortly after this adventure I felt as though our outing was complete. Magik and I headed back down the trail. All the while it felt as though the trees were still singing. I don’t recall ever being so aware of the Forest’s voice. What a life changing experience! I am grateful.

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