You know these guys. You somehow get dragged into a tent at a festival, or the school sends home a notice asking you to bring your child to school for an evening of storytelling. You prepare yourself for an hour of some old guy in bib overalls, telling endless stories that end abruptly and make no sense. Perhaps it’s a woman in a long calico dress who lived on a commune in the 1960’s, and she breaks out an autoharp to sing a song about spinning wool, but either way, you feel like you’re in for a real snoozefest.
In this case, I needed to pick up some credits for Pennsylvania’s Act 48 continuing education requirement for teachers, and this storyteller was hosted by a local elementary school. All I had to do was show up, listen to a few stories, and collect my 1 hour credit.
Unfortunately, I was drawn in. This guy was good, perhaps too good. I had to give him credit, he was in corduroy pants and suspenders instead of bib overalls. His first story was not only enough to hold my attention, I found myself imagining what this 8 foot tall hairy woman would look like. I wondered how this “regular man” could leave the child he had with the hairy woman, and I certainly couldn’t imagine how he could leave his son, no matter how ugly the kid was.
So when the storyteller asked us to close our eyes and go on a journey, I did so quite willingly. Why not? I’ve been practicing some meditation lately, and I figured this story could be like a guided meditation. We were directed to walk into the woods. As we made our way through the forest, we were told to follow the path to the big tree up ahead, our family tree. Our next instruction was to take a close look at it, feel the bark, look down at the roots, gaze up through the branches into the sunlight.
Our storyteller asked us to do what seemed to be impossible, but it was afterall, just in our minds. We entered the tree. We were doing this collectively, a group, in the school cafeteria, but at this point, the story, and the experience became very personal. I’d even describe it as sensual and intimate without being sexual. A tree is an awesome living thing, and to be in the tree, our own family tree, is a deeply personal experience.
“Go down to the roots, and if you see an animal there, greet them; listen to what they have to say.” I saw a skunk, which made me laugh a little, but I heard him say what a great honor it is to live in this tree, and that I was a special part of the life of the tree. I travelled to the highest branches and met a robin there. The robin told me that the branches of this tree have given me the ability to soar. I thanked both the skunk and the robin and returned to the trunk.
Our guide asked us to leave the tree and start back on the pathway to our real world. We rubbed our hands together, perhaps to awaken our minds to our present reality. Then we wiped our faces to open our eyes and leave behind that great family tree we discovered in our imaginations.
Storyteller, where did you take me this evening? I’ve been playing with myth and magick, story and dreams. Meditation has taken me to places much like you showed me tonight. Once again, I am reminded that we are all connected. Family connections, whether we like it or not, can be very strong. They can be help us or hurt us. Ultimately, the family tree determines not only who we are, but provides those heaven-lifted branches from which we take flight to become the person we are meant to be.