Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Stories we tell, and stories that tell us

"I will tell you something about stories. They aren't just entertainment. They are all we have to fight off illness and death. You don't have anything if you don't have stories."

One of the oldest stories that my mind remembers is one from Aina Haina Elementary, I am in First Grade. It's recess. The brick wall of the classroom is as clear as it was those many years ago. This morning, I'm not sure of what my mind or the storyteller who has kept this story remembers. It's so long ago yet it tints my today as I try to be with the process of making the writing of a novel. Tender health was part of my story even then. It is still so now, and yet there are differences; I have ways to understand my physical health. I have used stories to explain. I have used stories to create sense from struggle, loss and conflict. Stories are medicine and I tell them, stories, to heal the parts of me that cannot be explained only lived. New symptoms have shown up and I try to use the medicines that have worked. But I know the visitations are asking me to consider both the stories I tell and the stories I listen to or read written by others. Some medicine will work again; others will need amending.

My dreams have included a new twist on old stories. One of them I dreamed while sleeping on a foam mat on the floor of our friends' dining room. For the first time in years I was sleeping overnight away from the safety of my vardo. The wheeled home we built to contain our re-assembling lives has been our nest of stability. I have recovered a new level of well-being thanks to this tiny home, and believe it possible to tell stories of rootedness and self value now. The dream was a 'work' dream a new version of me doing work. In the dream I was prepared with the solution to a problem only to be told the problem changed so 'never mind.' In my old 'work' dreams I am doing the work I had done for thirteen years and dreamed the exact same feeling-sense about 'work.' A new place even for one night and two days shifted my internal world.

I planned this trip away from my nest of saftey, excited yet perhaps still fearful of too much success. Could I do it all just as I dreamed? As it turned out I needed to come back to the woods and my nest before completing the full excursion. But, the story is still different because there was a leap of faith. We drove to the Olympia destination to witness the arrival of 130 Canoe Families from the Salish Sea. Canoe Families, wa'a, are important to me. I am of the Canoe Families as well. Our friends offered us a place to stay so we could witness the Paddle to Squaxin. My tender health has toughened, hardening at the heart as Clarissa Pinkola Estes describes, I recognized that it is important to reckon with the winters of fear over and over again. Being with my husband and two friends who have journeyed with me long was in many ways a personal mirroring of the Paddle to Squaxin. Legacy and reclaimed values of the self are work -- hard, long and repetitive work. The Salish families began with 10 canoes to begin, on Sunday, July 29, 2012 there were 130 canoe families. The last time I slept inside a house overnight was 5 years ago. I tried it again this weekend. It worked enough to get me to the Canoes. I'll try another overnight trip again. The work that is mine is work that includes being willing to see the gift of my 'tender health.' Over time, I have felt the stories that had no optional ending save for that of compromised health, forgotten legacies and medicine that did not have my name attached to it. It is not too long a journey to learn and heal and tell new stories at nearly 65 years as a human woman. I am a woman with a soul that remembers everything; that is big -- everything.  The First Grader at Aina Haina heard and felt stories that would need time to be told. Happening now on Squaxin Island in the South Salish Sea, families of the canoe are growing medicine stories.

“We’re here to try to save our people,” said Gene Sampson, one of the skippers of the Hoh Tribe’s family canoe. “Once the youth learn their culture, they have a choice on how to live their lives.” Read more here.

Canoe Families are welcomed, Olympia, WA 2012
I've put this story here to witness my progress, connect with stories being strengthened and to open space for me to see how life and the medicine of writing my novel are good for me. The characters of the novel have something to tell me, I listen and pray and chant to hear their words and then, go to work.

"My greatest joy throughout my long and fruitful venturing as Mo'o Kanaloa has been the unwaivering belief that clues are most valuable when they can be passed along to those who could connect them with no regard--that does not mean the same as disrespect," Max paused again and motioned to Jacob before continuing. "With no regard for the illusion of a limit to time.  Patterns are sacred; they repeat and include the moment and events just as memory does the same."
-From my novel Splinters in-the-making

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