Life is Not A Fairy Tale. Or is it?

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In the fairy tales of my childhood, characters found their way to the “happily ever after” through bravery and imagination. Since growing up, I’ve realized how much courage it takes to use active, focused imagination to answer deeper questions like Who am I? Why am I here? What is the purpose and meaning of my life?

For me, the Storyteller archetype is a protective figure – a wise elder who knows the power of thoughts, the vulnerabilities of being truthful, and the aloneness of existence. She also understands that stories can change people, heal shame, free us from fear, ease our suffering and restore our sense of worth.

In my Tales of Enchantment, the Old Gypsy Storyteller creates folkloric stories that brim with life truths. As she travels the “road to paradise” her fanciful tales speak in a symbolic way. I love the way she gives animals and objects touch of magic and wonder  She bridges the realities of my inner Self to my search for wholeness, truth, beauty, love and goodness in the outer world.

Now that you know my motivation for creating this book, you might like to try a one page or even one paragraph fairy tale from your own life and use this altered-point-of-view. In the book Your Life as Story by Tristine Rainer, the author tells us that stories are created from three essential ingredients. We intuitively know this structure is true for telling stories from our lived experience as well. Most of us are familiar with a beginning, middle and conclusion arrangement and my Old Gypsy Storyteller has made use of this in her tales.

Here are the steps.

Something happened so that a person (a little girl, a little boy, a woman, an old man – he or she) had a problem and a need. I found it helpful to use the third person to temporarily step back from real life.

As the person pursued his or her need, a struggle ensued.

And in the end the person changed with a realization.

Your turn! Just begin, Once upon a time…

 

 

Hard copies of The Storyteller: True Tales of Enchantment have arrived! Visit the books page to purchase your autographed copy.

 

 

Games of Life

A game (noun) is defined as “a calculated strategy or approach; an active interest or pursuit.”

You might like to ask yourself about “the game of life” in your journal. Is life like a round of golf where you practice perfection? Is it like a game of chess where you try to stay one step ahead? Is it a child’s game of Hide and Seek in which you play at discovering the gifts hidden in yourself or your relationships; or even keeping yourself safe by hiding your essence from others?

Sometimes we win at “real” games like Scrabble or Crazy 8s. Sometimes we lose. How we react to wins and losses help us understand the kind of person we are. Do we play to win by pushing others out of the way? Do we pout, get angry or throw our cards down when we lose? Is it the game, the fun or the possible win that attracts us? We all like to succeed. What is success anyway except finding what gives us happiness and makes life worth living?

Learning from our reactions makes us happier players. How we cope, accept our abilities and celebrate our strengths we learn a little bit more about who we are.

Warning! This poem contains a crude word!

life is golf

on the fairway –
set feet apart
knees bent
head down
grip loose
allow the club
to carry through
connect
hard and true
lighten the hold
sink one shot
into success

but no!
this shot,
is like life –
it’s a whack! fuck!
the ball’s got no lift
and you can’t get it up
you miss the cup
and frustration
takes hold of your focus
throttles your confidence

like mistakes
on the fairway of life
perfection obsession
takes over
and the lesson
is lost
like a chuffed ball
lost in the ruff

kathie sutherland
06/24/03

This poem appears in balancing Act a poetry collection which you can purchase right here on my website at http://kathiesutherland.com/books/

Lonely Lila

Lonely Lila

Lonely Lila comes to me in darkness
when the interface grid is offline
when my soul radiance dims
i hear her whistling in the dark
then i’m not afraid
to share the gift of words
to light up the world
with forgiveness
and acceptance.

it shocks me to know
the live wire of my heart
when amplified and grounded
is powered by a great Wind
the natural source of all love

then Lila leaves her lonely lair
she illuminates the way, makes my heart shine
my eyes twinkle and my words hum.

(c) Kathie Sutherland 2015/02/03

Unearthing Essence

Since I began this blog, I’ve been paying more attention to the words I use, to their energy in the world, and to the things they convey. I’ve noticed that the subject matter I choose is often about the pain of the past. Many beautiful poetry, prose works and other artistic expressions arise from the rubble and hurt of people’s lives (think Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath and Ernest Hemmingway). I get judgmental about my writing when I continue to pull the darkness back over myself; like putting my head under the covers when it’s a beautiful day outside. Maybe that’s why, when I was a teen, my Dad woke me up by flicking the light off and on and announcing loudly, “You’re missing the best part of the day.” I didn’t like it at the time but now I see that he appreciated mornings and was grateful for the renewal that a new day brings. 

In my recent writing, I’ve tried to ease up on rehashing the past and spend more time becoming aware of the lessons that are right in front of me. I am aware that by telling stories over and over again, I am peeling off layers in a search for the essence buried under the mundane events of my life. Many days are not very interesting, exciting, or dramatic, the very things I use to create stories and poems. Perhaps that’s why I write, to relieve the tedious and repetitious nature of things. So I asked myself this morning, “What could I be writing that would be neither pained or boring but true to life?”

I could write that it was my daughter’s birthday today and that she loved all the Facebook messages she received and she is looking forward to her birthday supper with friends. I could write that her puppy, Jax, is the cutest grand dog ever, and I love that he communicates so much with his quizzical facial expressions. I could write that I finally got a good night’s sleep after a couple of long awake nights and I’m feeling more perky today. I could write that my husband makes the best oatmeal porridge, which is much better than mine probably because he uses the large flake oats and cooks it a long time.

Anyone can write about ordinary everyday stuff like this but some writers like to unearth the essence of things. They try to link today’s birthday with previous significant birthdays like turning 18 or 30 or 65 or describe the animated messages on Facebook. They try to write the thoughts a dog might have. They try to portray a peaceful night’s sleep or one with horrid nightmares and by doing so, understand themselves. They try to take the reader step by step through the precise measurements and cooking style of an oatmeal specialist. They try to write with appreciation, gratitude and renewed amazement at the darnest things.

What fascinates me is digging deeper than the surface fluff in search of treasures that exist at a spiritual level. Spiritual for me means writing in awareness of and integrating ordinary physical, emotional and intellectual experiences to find the extraordinary and connect that to All That Is. That’s one of the reasons I love metaphor. It’s a tool to connect concrete things to a spiritual abstract. I’ve been known to include a bit of twisted humour in my poems, a paradox or two, and find weird relationships between unrelated subjects. Riddles and puzzles stimulate questions about the Mystery and create synchronicity too.

Let’s consider a dog’s perspective, for example. Dogs are very intuitive, sensual creatures, present and focused on whatever they do, totally in touch with their natural instincts. A dog teaches me to stop and listen. I follow this inclination whenever I can because it feels like meditation when I pick out individual sounds and follow them until they are gone. One caveat I hold to as a general rule is… Steer clear of dog kibble and milk bones. 🙂

Here is a poem I wrote in 2001 that captures a dog’s imagined perspective on spring.

spring cycles

my dog teaches freedom
tugs at the leash
rushes headlong into the walk
she knows where she is going

i follow in her wake
believe her instinct
go where she goes
she has untamed advantage:
singular focus on scented breeze

here I stand
distracted by a plural mind
caught up in the colour of new lilacs
squeals of children at play on bicycles, water gurgling in gutters

but my dog knows better, raises her nose
obeys the call of the wild wind
with the smell of God in it

05/15/01

I believe spiritual essence lives underneath everything including the mundane. I’m always looking for it, asking questions, and listening for messages about the mystery of life.

If you like the idea of poetry as a spiritual quest, check out my poetry books on my Bookstore page.

 

 

 

 

Playing with Perspective

My first memory is of a tiny speckled bird shell. I remember wind blowing and dark earth. I cannot say where it was except that when I was three, we lived near Penhold, Alberta. I wrote a short story based on this momentary glimpse of innocence and wonder, and it brought back feelings about my parents, siblings, and summer picnics. Somewhere inside me, that curious child still lives.

I loved the outdoors back then. I was fascinated by caterpillars and feathers, dandelion seeds and ants. I loved to touch, smell, taste and observe the world around me. I noticed that round rocks roll and leaves fall down not up. In those days, at the playground, I tested my ability to climb, jump, swing and twirl. I developed physical strength, coordination and balance, as well as social skills, creative game playing, problem solving, confidence building, and a connection to people and place. At the time, I didn’t realize I was learning. It was all play to me.

What is your first memory?  Is it a small snippet without context? Writing about this memory in the present tense may bring up feelings about the experience. Feelings do not know the date and are just as powerful to your Child as they were when the feelings first arose.The gift of this approach to stories from childhood is described by Alice Miller in her book The Drama of the Gifted Child…”the experience of one’s own truth make it possible to return to one’s own world of feeling at an adult level – without paradise but with the ability to mourn. And this ability does give us back our vitality… awareness of old feelings is not deadly but liberating.”

Your story is unique because it is your perspective on events, a viewpoint that may be far from the factual truth but very accurate in terms of emotional and intellectual insight. Memory is unreliable because it comes to you as a reaction to a present event and manifests as a fleeting glimpse of a scene from childhood, an emotion such as fear or fun, an impression of a person, even a reaction to a smell. I recall tears welling up in my eyes once when I smelled pipe smoke. I turned toward the smell expecting to see my father smoking his corncob pipe even though he had passed away 30 years before. This is the power of memory.

Now, as I near “senior status” I’ve been visiting a new playground – the one in my imagination – where I can grow by playing with perspective. I’ve learned a great deal about my inner world by writing from my senses, feelings and especially, from my imagination. I can creatively capture a moment in a poem, a sentence, a story or vignette. I do not want to miss the miracles that occur every moment of every day, the way a Child perceives the world, free to explore and experience with the joyfulness of an open heart and mind.

I experienced this today when I stepped outside into cold winter air. The sun was shining in a clear blue sky. Chickadees hopped about in the spruce tree beside the deck. Snow glittered. As I write this now several hours later, I remember the feeling of cool air on my skin and the aliveness of the moment. I set aside my complaints about icy highways and wind chill factors and instead, choose to see the world with new eyes. This is the gift of your Inner Child.

 

Bouquet for a Friend

 

There is nothing better than the encouragement of a good friend.

– Katharine Butler Hathaway

 

A few days ago, my husband and I had lunch with friends. Our conversation included chitchat about food, creativity, computers, weather and all manner of commonplace things. Afterwards, we shared lattes and more chat, about websites and the “work” we undertake, our processes and expression. I was happy to hear that others search for the purpose of their creative endeavours as much as I do. This kind of conversation lightens my heart and gives me hope. In the same way, after many years of creatively writing about life, I realize that my journal is also my friend and advisor because its pages also listen, without interruption or judgment, then help me formulate alternatives for moving forward.

As we drove home that day, ominous clouds raced along the horizon and autumn leaves chased each other across the highway, and as I watched them, I reflected on the pages and pages of unfinished writing projects waiting for me on my computer. They include keynote speeches, e-courses, workshops and three large writing projects in various stages of completion. What struck me was how, with a few words of encouragement from my friend, the spark of my enthusiasm for long neglected plans was fanned by cheerful words.

As I often do when a word pops into my mind during a conversation or in my thoughts, I search for it to learn its history and etymology. The word encourage, comes from a root word used the early 15th century, the Old French encoragier “make strong, hearten,” from en- “make, put in” + corage “courage, heart.” In short, my friend had given me a shot of courage!

Another word that comes to mind when I think of these friends and our lunch date is gratitude. That’s a blog for another day but suffice it to say, this word is older still, from Medieval Latin gratitude, and even earlier, Latin gratus, meaning thankful, pleasing. This is one of the attributes of my love affair with words. I can see the way a word travels through history. Courage and gratitude are timeless virtues that not only motivate our actions, but are also a consequence of them.

I offer you this bouquet of roses, my friend. I am feeling excited and motivated to move ahead. I really appreciate your love and encouragement.