Looking into the eye of the wildHave you ever had a wild animal stare right into your eyes? And then to walk on by, seeing you not as a threat but as a part of nature? It is unforgettable. Each time this has happened to me the moment has been imprinted in my soul, and this happened to me today as I was telling a sycamore a story: let me explain.
These past few days have been sticky for me. I have what Jason and I are calling lockdown lethargy. Restrictions imposed because of the Covid-19 pandemic have been lifted but I am far from back to normal. There is a well-researched phenomenon that when people or animals have been held in captivity, when the door is opened, they don’t walk out of it. I have absolutely been grappling with this. I am noticing it in me, my reticence to going out, and it is surprising me as it is the polar opposite of my natural state. Normally in the summer I am here there and everywhere, but not this year, even though it is entirely possible now.
This isn’t the first time I have had an intriguing psychological response to the lockdown period we have been in and are still enduring here in the UK. Each time, whenever I get myself into a pickle, I find that if I turn my energy to doing something creative, I can see my way out. This was the topic of our most recent shamanic journey circle: discovering the hidden treasure that lies within us, as a path to shifting our soul a little bit closer to where it wants to be.
Dreamtime to storytime
This morning I woke up with a fairy tale running around inside my head. I had just come out of a dream where I was given the task of creating a new fairy tale, which I duly did. Wide awake, I could still remember it. I could easily have rolled over and dozed off, dismissing it, but I talked myself round and opened up the notes app in my phone and wrote down the salient points. I then fleshed it out immediately afterwards: there was no time like the present and I couldn’t put it down. By the time I got up out of bed I had recited my first telling to Jason.
As I planned out my day, I decided to flip things on their head. Instead of doing the things I needed to do to meet various work deadlines I went to the woods straight after breakfast. I wanted to tell the fairy tale to the land. I set out my picnic rug and spoke it to a sycamore tree.
So, there I was, in the woods, speaking the story I had dreamt about less than four hours previous. It is about a squirrel, a boy squirrel who is sent on a mission by his tribe. The stakes are high and there is a pressing deadline, with various trials and tribulations encountered along the way. Given this was only my second telling, as I was mid flow in the opening piece, I surprised myself with the thought, “you know Nicola, this isn’t that bad!” A friend asked me recently if I would like to submit a short fairy tale telling to a project that he is coordinating for the vicar in his local village. I had a flash of inspiration that this could be the one. I set my iphone camera balanced on the tree, pressed record and began.
I loved speaking the story to the land, bringing my dream to life. Then as I approached the crucial pivotal point of the story towards the end, imagine my surprise when a squirrel walked past, right in front of me. He stopped, turned around and sat up on its two hind legs and looking me right in the eyes. He cocked his head to listen, paused for a while and then trotted off. He was so close I could have reached out and touched him.
Storytelling to the land
When I have told stories to the land before it has felt like the trees and plants are listening. There is a point in the telling when everything around me feels different. Now I am conjuring up an audience of one squirrel to listen to the squirrel fairy tale that has come through me, that feels very special indeed.
This isn’t 'my' story: it was given to me in a dream. It feels such a gift. A gift from the imaginal realm. This has never happened to me before, not like this. I do get given information in dreams, but not a whole story. I could have talked myself out of writing it down, taking time out to tell it, record me telling it, and then sharing it with the world. But I pushed through all those excuses that came to mind, such as I have more important things I need to be cracking on with, it isn’t very good, I am not very good. I have jumped right in, as after all, this isn’t my story, and as a shamanic practitioner, am I not here to bring through information from the Otherworlds that is most needed at this time?
Our Mythology teacher Dr Martin Shaw from the West Country School of Myth told us that stories are the language of the earth. The earth speaks in story and when we tell a story to the land something happens. Each time I have done this the energy around me has changed. Everything becomes sharper, closer, more colourful and yet surreal at the same time. It feels like I have moved into a different dimension, and perhaps I have. It feels edgy, I can see movement in my peripheral vision, and I keep on needing to look over my shoulder. I don’t hang around long afterwards: something is there and not just a curious squirrel.
Sadly, as the camera was pointing towards me, I didn’t get to record my squirrel companion. But you can see me distracted, looking at him, 9.02 minutes in.
And as for lockdown lethargy? Well, after an experience like that I can tell you that has well and truly gone, for now at least. Creativity is always my key to finding my way out of difficult states of being.
So, I hope you enjoy storytime. Scroll to the top of this page to watch the video. This is the first time I have ever told a story to camera. Usually we are around the campfire, sharing stories during our retreats. However, lockdown is pushing us all out of our comfort zones, and so here is my offering to you today: The Boy Squirrel & the Tonga Tree, fresh from the Otherworld.
I would love to hear what you think in the comment box below, especially in respect to what message you are taking from this story. Which part of the story has claimed you? And why do you think that is?