I’m a story person, as you know, and it has become poignantly clear that I am currently navigating the world, professionally and personally, without a map. And when I’m without a map, I think in story.
I’m blown away by how many stories we individually and collectively think through. Unconsciously, consciously, spiritually, non-spiritually, scientifically, naturalistically, and on and on and on. We are swimming in stories and we wear stories and we marinate in stories and we are born through bloodlines that also have their own unique and painful and beautiful ancestral story imprints.
Here we are, spring almost summer 2020, and we are in a story I never imagined I’d be walking inside of. And wildly, as the world has been launched into this story at nearly the same time, we don’t all agree to what the story actually is, or how we are supposed to follow it. It makes me think of Vassalissa the Brave, who was forced to go to Baba Yaga’s hut in the middle of winter for fire for the hearth, only in order to get the elusive fire of illumination, she had to complete a series of tasks. Complete them fully, you go onto the next level. Don’t, and you get churned into butter or bones. And remember, don’t ask too many questions, or it’ll grow you too old too soon.
I feel aged from the current crisis/opportunity we are individually and collectively navigating. The figuring out how to navigate the all of it with my mama hat, my teacher hat, my human person navigating the stores hat…it’s overwhelming, to say the least. It’s painful too. Its complicated. It fills me with sorrow. Hope. Contradictions. I wish for there to be a place for all of the complexity of it to dance into a beautiful cloak, spun out of dirty straw and made into gold, creating the shape of a new question. Anyway, one of Vassalissa’s tasks is to sort millions of poppy from mustard seeds. An impossible task, if not for the little doll of intuition (from her birth mother, from her spirit mother, from the wisdom of the sophia mother) in her pocket, whispering, don’t worry, just go to sleep, i’ll do it for you. I’ve been trying to sort it, for myself, my students, the world, and …it’s exhausting.
For days, I’ve been hearing from the little doll in my pocket, please dear, sleep on it. As Baba Yaga once said to Vassalissa, “mornings are wiser than evenings.” It’s true. And here we are, another day, still navigating this crazy insane beautiful messy wonderful world together, With its crowned-virus. We have access to all the information jumbled in the heap of mustard and poppy seeds before us. We’re all sorting. It’s too much to sort sometimes. And we can choose how to sort. Or when to stop sorting, and when to sleep and when its time to take the fiery skull and run.
Oh my heart. All of our hearts. Here is one golden question, risen from the pyre of the Firebird’s ashes: “How do we make the World (in all its rising and falling, rising and falling) Beautiful, and Good, and True for the Children?” And beneath that question another question, flapping her golden wings, “How do we navigate the questions responsibly, respectfully and in integrity as adults?
I recently thought about a student of mine from last year, Josh, our dear friend Josh, who was in his death transition this time of year last year. I asked him, “What would you say?” He answered by way of story medicine and offered me the gift of Ivan, and the firebird, and reminded me of the medicine of story. That story, his story (Ivan, the Gray Wolf and the Firebird) mysteriously and unpredictably guided a group of first grade children through his sickness, death and spirit world rebirth. Not any one of us wants to or can wrap our chitter chatter heads around the painful story of a child getting sick and dying. Yet stories have a way of making sense out of what doesn’t make sense, helping us to digest it, as if it is milk from the stars inside the milky way, comforting us as we navigating the dark night without a light.
What would Ivan do? Unlike Vassalissa who had no choice to go into the dark fairytale forest (sometimes stories grab us whether we want them to or not), he choose to go on his adventure. He had absolutely no idea the trouble it would cause. J.R.R. Tolkein said, “It is dangerous business going out your front door.” And still we have the question: How do we make the world good, and beautiful and true for the children? Here is the path and it is forking in the middle of the dark forest. At a fork in the road, Ivan has three choices…go straight ahead, you will grow cold and weary; to the left, your horse will live, you will die; to the right, you will die, your horse will live. We can choose a different path entirely, and bushwack our way like mad through the thick brambles, or we can choose the paths before us. Either way, it’s not easy. There is going to be trouble and adventure, beauty and pain, disagreements and agreements, togetherness, and times apart. We are going to grapple with the questions. And hopefully we will find, quest for and possibly return with the golden questions that outlive all the others.
Ivan chooses the path to the right, which to me, represents him following his truth, or doing what he thinks is right, or maybe it is what others think is right. May we all follow the truth as it feels right for us, and do so respectfully, responsibly in a world that we are co-creating for the children. He chooses the path to the right, and his horse is attacked and killed by the same grey wolf who will become his personal spirit guide through the dark forest. I don’t know why it works that way. Sometimes spirit throws you a curve ball, and then guides you, through thick or thin.
All this to say, we are all navigating stories. Some of them are intersecting and some of them are colliding. Here is another golden question: How do we hold the all of the stories for the children in our lives, in our community and beyond? May we cocreate what serves the one inside the many, without hating one another for our choices, or the difficult position we are in having to choose for ourselves, and follow the path that feels right for each of us.
When the children are fighting to tell ‘their side of the story’ and for their side to be ‘the right side of the story’ Just as I tell the children, I want to say to you: Neither of you is in trouble. We will take turns. You can say your side, and then you can say yours. Please, no interrupting. No put downs. Please practice listening. We probably have different stories, and while that is complicated, it’s okay. It doesn’t make anyone better or worse, more right or more wrong. Your feelings are okay. Being scared or mad or sad is okay.
And here we are, back at the beginning, maybe with more questions than answers. Or perhaps for some, this is the end of one story. Or maybe some of us are still in the middle, thinking about the firebird feather, wondering if we will ever see it again.