A cautionary tale of Irish shenanigans from our 2019 visit.
The first morning of our two day Irish walking tour was everything I hoped for. The weather was sunny yet mild, our packs were light upon our backs and we the luxury Bed and Breakfast booked for the night. The walking app with map on our phone gave us all the information we needed as we wandered over hills and dales, through velvet green valleys, past bubbling brooks and quaint little cottages which speckled the countryside.
Then the weather turned cold, we were prepared for that.
Then the phone reception dropped out. No map, few signposts.
Then we found ourselves in an Irish bog being attacked by invisible ninja assassins -midges.
Then the rain began to fall.
The bog was endless and we were mired in mud and muck. By evening, we were totally and absolutely lost, we may have started arguing at this point. Neither of us knew where the luxury BnB and I was cold wet and hungry.
Eventually we happened upon a small pub on the edge of bog in the middle of nowhere. If I’d been in a better state of mind I might have appreciated the pink rose trellis that laced its walls. If I’d been in a better state of mind I might have admired the duck pond with ducks, out the front of the pub but I did not because, I was cold wet and hungry. With our phone dead and our bodies exhausted, we decided to get a room for the night, charge our phone and in the morning, after a full Irish breakfast get back on course.
For a hotel in the middle of nowhere it was doing a roaring trade, people singing, playing instruments, laughing. The crack was in full swing. All the heads turned, and it fell eerily quiet as we walked in. I nudged Ulf forward, to ask about a room for the night.
“Would you be having a story and song then” asked the publican.
“No I butted in, just a hot shower, something to eat and bed, thanks, because I’m cold, wet and hungry”
“Sorry Mrs, you misunderstood, house rules is, if you want to stay then you have to give us a story or a song.”
Some of the other guests snickered at this stage. Ulf sighed “well I could give you a short story..”
Steam was rising off my sodden clothes and I felt steam coming from my ears. I was cold wet and hungry.
My voice rose a few decibels, “I just want a hot shower, something to eat and a bed is that too much to ask?”
“Sorry love, house rules is house rules”
I exploded in unladylike expletives and stormed outside. Inside, everyone burst into laughter.
Blinded by rage, I promptly fell into the previously ignored duck pond “Aghhhhhhhhhhh”.
Next thing I knew, two strong hands reached in and pull me out. Somewhat sheepishly I looked up at Ulf, but it wasn’t Ulf and it wasn’t an Irish farmer or the publican either. It was a tall ethereal being, with pointy ears and mysterious almond eyes. Then I heard music, strange otherworldly, intoxicating music- and I saw creatures dancing- fauns, sylphs, dryads and fairies.
And her. She had hair the colour of golden wheat, moss green eyes and when she danced as gracefully as the breeze through ripe barley. I felt a strange sensation in my groin, I reached down. What the? Where did that? How? I’m a man?? Before I could even form the questions in my mind, she snatched me up in her wild erotic dance.
And oh. How we danced, and we danced and we danced. It could have been a minute, it could have been for an hour, or a day. Carried away in the ecstasy of the movement and music.
As dawn broke, she led me to her bed, and we explored the new manliness of my body, again, and again and again.
After that first morning it was difficult to remember, the other world, my world, my husband, my three daughters, my femaleness. Each long summer night was filled with ecstasy of dance and every morning the ecstasy of love making. As I grew comfortable in my new manhood, my memories of my other life faded. All I could remember was there was something, something I'd forgotten.
Oh, that summer I was the consort of the queen fairy and happy seemed the fairy folk of my good fortune. They treated me with reverence and respect.
One evening, as the nights were growing short, my beloved queen came to me and said, “It is done, I am with child”. How we rejoiced, my queen and I, as the other fairy folk prepared a feast on a bonfire. When the celebration was prepared, they lifted me onto their shoulders and paraded me through the cheering throng of fairy folk. Delighted, they threw flowers at me, and sweetly scented herbs, and then great blobs of butter? Then they hurled me into enormous pot of water on the bonfire, “Aghhhhhhhhh”
Next thing I knew, two strong hands reach in and pull me out. “Ulf it’s you!” I fell into his arms, a crying, sodden mess. “Lindy, you just tripped into a duck pond” he said. “Come inside and we’ll get you dry”. Ulf led me into the bar and stood me in front of the fire, the room had gone quiet again and I could feel their eyes upon me.
Could they see I was a man? I reached for my groin, “Whew. Get this woman a Guinness, because man, has she got a story for you”.
A story about life, covid and feathered messengers.
FUNK- I was mired in a Covid funk. Not a dark dreadful depression, unable to rise from bed but more a Jane Austin-esque melancholia, taken to wandering waif like around the house, restless. Quite unwilling and unable to settle at a task and prone to outbursts of sighing, followed by more waif like wandering. A ghost unable to find rest.
Just 4 weeks earlier I had storytelling work, preschools, weddings and storytelling nights as well as other exciting projects lined up- a full length performance with musician, a collaborations with another teller and an international conference to organize, more than enough to keep me occupied as my husband travelled back to Sweden for an indefinite stay with his family.
Then Covid came…. the work, the projects evaporated, sigh. And then my husband was going, wasn’t going, was going, wasn’t going, was going wasn’t going.. then he went. Sigh FUNK
Of course, I knew many people were far worse off than me. I had a roof over my head, food to eat, government benefits… yet sigh, FUNKED I felt. The only thing that relieved my funk was anger. A battle raged within.
“Write something!”, “sigh no”
“Practice something!”, “sigh no”
Perform something on line!” “sigh no”
“DO ANYTHING!!!” “sigh, it’s all too hard” FUNKED
Funk and anger, anger and funk
Finally, one day, anger took me in hand for a brisk walk, determined to force funk from my body. I can’t say that I was enjoying the walk for it felt like a doomed enforced march. As I strode past the lantana tangled mangroves that bordered the sports field, a flash of blue brought caught my eye.
An electric blue male Fairy Wren, he popped his head of the bush out and gave me a proper chiding “peep peep peep”. Then his small mouse brown mate appeared, and she flicked her tail at me with such attitude. I stood astounded. What brave hearts they were to accost a woman mired in funk. Captivated, I watched and listened. Their peeps came to me Consider the birds of the air…
So I considered the birds, these birds. I considered the size of their brave hearts, the dimensions of the veins and arteries that carried the blood to their hearts, so impossibly small, and yet so perfect. My own heart marveled and warmed in response, and for a few hours my covid funk took flight
Alas, at home, Funk’s icy fingers closed around my heart once more;
“Will I work again, won't I work again”’
“Will Ulf come home, won't Ulf come home” And then Anger kicked in,
Write something!” “sigh, no”.
“Practice something!” “sigh, no”.
Perform something on line!” “sigh, no”.
“DO ANYTHING!!!” “sigh but it’s all too hard, sigh” FUNKED
Another day, another forced march day, this day not one pair but two pairs of fairy wrens accosted me They darted across my path, to sit in the bushes either side and admonish... “Peep Peep Consider the birds of the air…”. Quick as they appeared, they disappeared back into the bushes… not before leaving me with a warm heart and the memory of a folktale, the King of the Birds.
“Once, long, long ago, the birds of the earth decided that they should appoint a King, a bird to rule over all of them. But who to choose, how to choose?
“The largest” suggested the ostrich, “the wisest” offered the owl, “the loudest” laughed the kookaburra, “the most lovely voice” sung the nightingale, “the most beautiful” preened the peacock, “the most prolific” twittered thousands of sparrows. After much squawking, squeaking, peeping, twittering, trilling, ringing and cooing calling, cackling and warbling, they decided that the bird which flew the highest and closest to the sun, should be King.
The birds took to the air on mass, fluttering, flapping, flying up and up. Humming, whirring, whooping, higher and higher above the earth they flew, like a floating ceiling. Then, one by one, the smallest first, began to drop away, they could go no higher. One by one they gathered on the ground necks craned as they watched the sky till only the eagle flew, the long slow powerful beats of his wings propelled him higher and higher, closer and closer to the sun. The birds watched in awe. At last the eagle could climb no higher when, from under the eagle’s feathers leapt a wren.
A tiny wren, that spent its life hiding in the bushes and scrub, never daring to leave the protective brambles, leapt into the air above the eagle and bathed in the sun’s radiance, “Peep Peep Peep”
None were more surprised than the eagle himself. The wren had taken an enormous risk, he had trusted that the eagle, as an emissary of spirit would not eat him to hide his defeat. The eagle, in turn, recognised the wren’s cleverness and bravery.
The two birds thoroughly spent, flew back to the earth, the eagle taking care to keep below the wren to catch him should he falter. Exhausted the eagle and the little wren landed and before all the great winged gathering, Eagle declared wren to be king of the birds.
Funny that the story should pop into my head, it’s not a story that I have ever told. Consider the birds of the air.
Hmmm, were the birds trying to tell me something?
I was happy to walk the next day and as I did, I listened to a podcast about the ancient Chinese poet Cold Mountain. Along the walk I was met by not one, not two but 4 pairs of fairy wrens, “PEEP PEEP PEEP”. I said “I am, I am considering the birds of the air” and they bopped and nodded in approval. As I headed across the empty oval, I thought, if the birds are really bringing me messages then surely, they would have pooped on my head by now?
My podcast in my ear launched into a poem recital;
“a thousand sparrows descend on my empty courtyard, they swarm around me, trying to murder me with their racket"
At that moment a thousand crazy correllas descended on my empty oval, they swarmed around me, deafening me with their racket, then something heavy and warm hit my head. Bird funk. I look over to the lantana and the assembles wrens were peeping their little heads off in glee.
Their message now as plain as the poop in my hair.
Consider the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor reap nor gather into barns. They trust their needs will be met.
The little wren who spent most of his life close in the protective scrub feeling small, courageously trusted in the eagle, the emissary of spirit, and became king
All that was needed was a brave heart and trust in the spirit of life. Yes, I had a roof over my head, there was food on the table, for now that was enough. If covid kept my husband and I apart for some time, I would still be alright, more than alright, everything was going to be fine.
I arrived home to find two rainbow lorikeets making love on my verandah. Ha! Perhaps Ulf and I will be together sooner I expected, happy "sigh”
Once in the wintertime, when the snow was deep, crisp and white upon the ground, a poor boy was sent out into the forest to fetch wood on a sled. After he had gathered and loaded the wood, his feet and hands were frozen through. He decided to make a fire and warm himself a little before pulling the heavy sled home. He scraped the snow away, and while he was clearing the ground, he found a small golden key. “Where there is a key, there must be a lock” he though. He dug in the frozen ground and found a little iron chest. "If only the key fits, there must be things of great value in such a chest." He looked but could find no keyhole. He turned it and turned it until finally he found the keyhole, it was so small that it could scarcely be seen. He tried the key, it fitted. Then he turned it once and click….
(The Golden Key-the Grimms Bothers)
That’s where the story ends. We like to ask our audience, “What do you think is in the chest?” Some say treasure, others suggest gold. One little boy even said puppies! When we open our iron chest, we find… All those things and more, we find imagination! When my husband Ulf and I tell stories, it’s just the children, ourselves and the story, and in that intimate space, the lid of that chest flies open- and we are all co-creators and explorers of infinite imaginative story worlds.
Oral Storytelling is the Art of Imagination: As storytellers, we invite the children on a journey, and the children are not passive consumers, but fellow travellers. Storytellers communicate their imagination, the images they see and feel inside to others so they can see and feel them too.
Storytellers have a magic chest of tools to communicate stories to the children, as well as our imagination, we use words, vocal intonation, sound effects, facial expressions, gestures, body language and movement, rhyme, rhythm and repetition. Children with poor language skills or reading difficulties can still enjoy, participate and understand a story through oral storytelling, as all aspects of storytelling convey the meaning in a congruent, engaging and playful way. Oral storytelling is an enhanced sensory experience of literature for all children.
Oral Storytelling scaffolds children's language and literacy skills by providing a powerful pedagogical model that is imaginative, intimate, inclusive, expressive, creative, responsive and playful.
Regular exposure to oral storytelling has proven to:
• increase vocabulary and the use of more complex sentence structures.
• improve remembrance and comprehension skills
• Increase attention and listening spans
• encourage expressive language development
• develop children’s sense of story structure and predictive skills
• enhance language understanding with congruent vocal intonation, gestures, body movement & facial expressions
• expose children to different narrative forms
• develop children’s imaginations through active listening
• encourage and motivate reading and writing
• support children’s ability to express their own stories
• support children’s sense of belonging by valuing and incorporating their contributions to story making
Active Imaginations: Studies have shown that children who listened to storytelling had better comprehension than those children who were read to. This is because when children are read stories and shown pictures, they can be passive consumers, however, when listening to a storyteller they become active as they must exercise their imaginations to create inner pictures that the storyteller communicates through their words and para-linguistic cues. Children’s remembrance of the stories was enhanced too. We’ve experienced firsthand many young children able to remember folktales almost word for word after only one or two storytellings.
Heart to Heart: Another reason for the better comprehension and remembrance is the social context, that is the personal and intimate connection created between the teller and the listener. Oral storytelling provides an experience which is immediate and personal. Free from the text, the storyteller meets the listener eye to eye, mind to mind, heart to heart and imagination to imagination. When we tell stories, we are free to respond to the needs of the listeners, we can slow the story down and expand it in places where the audience interest is great, we can liven it up or calm it down and we can add participation.
Eager Explorers: We invite, encourage and support the children to participate in and contribute to the storytelling, the child becomes a co-creator and co-imaginator of their storytelling experience. In this imaginative space, the children’s contribution is valued and incorporated, there are no wrong suggestions just wonderfully wild story tangents shooting off into new territories. As their contributions are encouraged, valued and incorporated in the imaginative safe story space, the children’s sense of belonging is enhanced. The child becomes a keen explorer, eager to discover and express their own stories.
At our regular storytelling gigs, we have enthusiastic young storytellers jumping up and down to take over the show and tell their stories. We believe their enthusiastic response is testament to the powerful model, oral storytelling and the art of imagination provides for children’s language and literacy development.
All that in one small chest; Imagine That!
"Imagine That" was part of a presentation I gave at The Gold Coast Libraries "Early Childhood Literacy and Language Forum" September 2019
Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there was a Kingdom hidden deep within a lush valley where a fire breathing dragon turned the very rock to molten steel. It was here, at the centre of the dragon's lair, that the clans would gather each year at the changing of the season when the leaves streamed red and gold from the trees, and the breeze scattered their richness across the land.
This magical valley was called The Kingdom of Ironfest.
That was the setting for a magical weekend of storytelling with fellow storytellers, Jill Webster and Kiran Shah. The four of us were representing the Australian Storytelling Guild, Nsw, at Ironfest's inaugural Kids Kingdom and the festival's theme this year Once Upon A time was the perfect place for storytelling. And of course, the Guild of Storytellers fitted in perfectly with the other guilds present such as the blacksmiths.
Kids Kingdom was wisely situated well away from the cannon fire and artillery but it did mean that families had to run the gauntlet of all the other activities and sights before finding the Kids Kingdom Tent and storytelling. Saturday morning was a little quiet with small but appreciative audiences. On Sunday morning, Jill donned her incredible magical forest goddess stilt walking costume and roamed the festival ushering families our way. So while Jill was on her stilts, Kiran, Ulf and I were kept on our toes as we had a steady stream of families pouring through the tent.
I always love a festival and especially one that encourages dressing up, not that I need encouragement, indeed and excuse to dress up is my motto. And the costumes at Iron Fest are fantastical!!! Inside the Iron Fest pavilion there was a Stargate and from this time traveling portal streamed Steam punks, Knights, Roman Legionaries, Spartans, Celts, Stormtroopers, Soldiers, Marines, Light Horse Cavalry, aliens, fairies, witches, mermaids, darleks and dragons. The whole festival was an absolute feast for photographers and pure magic for kids aged 2 to 102. But I have to say as much as I love to dress us, Jill Webster takes dressing up to a whole new level, literally!
Welcome to Chennai
What a spectacular welcome to the Under the Aalamaram Storytelling Festival! Our International team of storytellers was met with trumpets and drums and beautifully dressed children in their traditional clothes. Flower lays were draped around our necks and our foreheads daubed with red vermillion as we were ushered into the school like visiting royalty.
The Under the Aalamaram Storytelling Festival was founded by Kathai Kalatta in 2014 to introduce children and adults, teachers and parents, in and around Chennai, to the benefits of oral storytelling. They invite storytellers from all over the world to share their unique cultures, their values, ideas and storytelling techniques with the people of Tamil Nadu.
World Renown Storytellers
It was a such an honour to be invited to tell stories along side some of the best storytellers in the business: Dianne Ferlatte- US, Jackie Kerin- Australia, Roger Jenkins- Singapore, Craig Jenkins- UK, Mochamad Arivo Faridh Zidni- Indonesia, Giorgiana Elena Popan- Romania and of course the great team of Indian Storytellers headed by festival organiser, Jeeva Raghunath with Vikram Sridhar, Ambujavalli Nagarajan & Debjani Bhadjuri.
It wasn’t a festival for the faint hearted as we storytellers were driven all over Chennai, through the incredibly hot, crowded city streets to different schools over 10 days. Many of the schools themselves seemed like mini cities as they catered for up to 5000 pupils. We also flew inland to Coimbatore, surrounded by the Western Ghats, the city pace there seemed a little slower. Some of the Coimbatore school were nestled into the lush green foothills of the Ghats, one school had been built on a well worn elephant track through the mountains… and yes, they did find the odd elephant wandering in the school ground.
On the Hop
Storytelling at the schools kept us all on our toes, despite the organisers best laid plans, we were never entirely sure what age group our audience were going to be. One day we were confronted with preschoolers who spoke no English- or I should say; the poor preschoolers were confronted with a crew of International storytellers with limited Tamil; just as well I had my bottomless bag of Australian animal puppets with me- soon we were all hopping and singing a kangaroo song.
The children from 1st grade up seemed to have a great understanding of English, even with the International tellers’ different accents. All the children, including the teenagers, joyfully joined in with participatory stories- so if you are ever telling overseas, make sure you pack plenty of participation stories- they totally won the attention and the hearts of all our audiences (and perhaps pack a kangaroo or two just in case)
Not only did I thoroughly enjoy my experience of telling stories in the schools but it was a fantastic opportunity to observe the many differed storytelling styles of the other tellers and learn more about my craft. Besides storytelling we also conducted workshops with the teachers, which again was a great opportunity to learn from others.
The festival held two main highlights for me, the first one was storytelling with the lovely Indian Storyteller Ambujavalli Nagarajan at a new International school in Coimbatore. Ambuja and I shared the storytelling sessions, and we had great fun singing a song together.
And the other highlight was at the International Storytelling Showcase at the Chennai Conservatory of Music. It was a beautiful theatre which held an intergenerational audience of 220. The evening flowed effortlessly. I had a last minute change of story and decided that Little Fairy Fifi, an Australian rainforest fairy wanted to her story to be told. Though we had not planned it… every story told seemed to build on the one before it, there was something palpable in the air, and I felt myself fall in love with each and every story, and with each and every teller. Sitting together after the performance, we all sensed that something truly magical had happened. (I'm not saying the magic was all fairy fifi's doing but she did have the 200 strong audience all waving their fancy fairy wands and flapping their wings)
Under the Aalamaram was a fabulous adventure, challenging with the heat, humidity and noise of an Indian city, but so rewarding with the enthusiastic participation of the children and teachers and with the new friendships forged. I think that India is much like a fairytale forest… once you enter, you can never be the same again.
An Interview with Sandra from "Less Stuff , More Meaning" Wedding Guide.
It’s an absolute privilege welcoming Lindy and Ulf, Heart to Heart Storytelling, to our community of eco-ethical vendors. Theirs is a unique talent, enriched by their wisdom, environmental activism and quite simply, heart. I won’t go on, as Lindy and Ulf have explained the meaning of storytelling as part of your wedding experience, better than I ever could.
Storytelling celebrants, sounds intriguing…how did that come about?
Ulf and I were storytellers first, we had both been telling stories separately and together for about a decade and when my daughter and her partner asked us to marry them, it seemed a natural progression and another meaningful way to share our storytelling skills. So, while I (Lindy) am the legal celebrant, Ulf works with me to create & perform the ceremonies.
So why tell stories?
Aside from doing what we love and loving what we do, storytelling brings meaning & connection. In our fast-paced technical world, information is googled then forgotten, relationships may be ‘virtual’ rather than human, and we are bombarded with sounds, images and consumerism. Even our important life events such as weddings & funerals are quick, cookie cutter affairs, often with more thought for the catering & decorations, than the ceremonies. Yet people are searching for meaning in their lives and there is an innate hunger for connection and the warmth of community.
And ever since there have been words, there has been storytelling, storytelling is our oldest art form. Stories just makes sense to humans, we live stories, we share stories and we understand stories. In storytelling we find the commonalities of our humanity rather than differences. Storytelling provides the nourishment that our souls long for. Stories told eye to eye, mind to mind and heart to heart, gift us the sense of sacredness, the feeling of belonging and recreation of community connectiveness.
We have seen audiences deeply touched by our stories. One woman thanked Ulf for his honest, heartbreaking story of his first wife’s death. She said his story had open her eyes to the beauty that lies within the most difficult of times. A young gay man, with tears in his eyes said the creation myth we shared during a wedding ceremony made him feel truly recognised & valued. While others have wondered at the profound wisdom of simple folk tales for today’s problems. In stories, we have cried at the beauty of life, laughed at its absurdity and been inspired by the hero’s journey.
Whatever the story, and whoever our audience, whether sharing stories at a community event, a school or during a wedding ceremony, we never ceased to be amazed at the profundity of storytelling to open & connect hearts, to share wisdom, give meaning and sacredness back to modern life.
How does the inclusion of stories into a wedding ceremony add more richness to the experience?
We love to tell the story of the couple, how they met, what they love about each other, the obstacles overcome, dreams for the future, the funny stories, and the ‘ahhhhhhh’ moments. It’s these stories which we can all relate too and be inspired by… it’s the stories people remember long after the wedding cake is eaten.
Sharing family stories or cultural tales can assist the coming together of two families in understanding and appreciation for each other and their traditions. These tales can also link the past to the present and future, gifting people the security of continuity and connection, while myths and religious stories can add layers depth and meaning with their ancient metaphors.
Tell us your story! How did two storytellers meet and fall in love?
Well that’s a long story, and we are storytellers… but I’ll make a long story short; in 2014 we both attended “Storytelling as Performance Art” at the International School of Storytelling in the UK. I fell in love with Ulf when I heard his first story, a lovely, whimsical Swedish fairytale. And Ulf fell in love with me, on our long barefoot walks through the golden summer meadows. He asked me to marry him on the last day of the 5 week course. We were married in Australia 4 months later. Our very own fairytale!
We’d love to hear about your daughter’s wedding…what was the experience like for you as a celebrant?
The first time I practiced their ceremony, I cried and cried, so I had to practice quite a bit to get through without the tears flowing. It was such a celebration of love but more than that it was a celebration of their rainbow community.
I will always cherish the time that I spent with Jessie and Hayley before the wedding, talking with them, listening to their stories, and learning about how they deal with conflict, and their hopes, dreams and plans for the future. The whole process of co-creating the ceremony with them was an honour and a privilege.
Jessie and Hayley were open to any ideas about the ceremony and they were keen for stories to play an important part. When Ulf and I came across a creation myth which beautifully explains why there are men who love men, and women who love women, and men and women who love one another, we felt is was a great basis for the ceremony, Jess and Hayley loved it too. We also told the story of their meeting & adventures, some embarrassing moments and the magical ones. The ceremony was rich with laughter and tears (I did hold it together) and it was an absolute reflection of those two beautifully unique women.
How have you seen storytelling engage a sense of community and connectedness?
I co-founded a community storytelling café, Long Story Short, in 2013, where we invite storytellers and people with a story to tell to come and share their stories. We are now in our 5th year and when people arrive, they come as strangers but after hearing and sharing stories they leave as friends, as community. One storyteller, who shared her life story as a transgender woman described Long Story Short as ‘heaven on earth’ for the love and acceptance she experienced with our audience. And that’s how it is every month, through stories we find and share the bonds of our common humanity.
What would you like to see more of in weddings?
To borrow your words, less stuff and more meaning! The last 5 weddings I have been involved in have been community affairs.There is an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child, well I believe it is should also be a village to create a wedding.
Give every guest a job; big, small, something that suits their talents. Get artists painting signs, musicians on the music, Aunty Flo can collect jars for table decorations. Begin a year or 6 months in advance and make a list of everything that needs doing and assign people to tasks. People love to be asked, besides sharing stories, inviting others to help on your special day creates a strong sense of community.
Your ceremony sets the intention for your married life. So, spend more time on considering intentions and meaning. Be creative with your ceremony, weave in those intentions and meaning, focus more on the internal than the external decorations. A ceremony rich in meaning is a strong foundation for a life time together.
Don’t aim for perfection. Mistakes and disaster do occur, accept them with grace and allow magic to arise.
And share more stories…. Definitely more stories at weddings!
Apart from wedding ceremonies, how else can storytelling benefit us?
Storytelling is experiencing a worldwide revival in many fields, business, heath & wellbeing, education and environment. Ulf first fell in love with storytelling as he witnessed it’s ability to build strong communities.
My first interest in storytelling was as a powerful way to reconnect people with the natural world. While you can tell people facts about why they should look after the environment, facts don’t make them care. But a well told story evokes empathy and fosters the sense of stewardship.
What other services do you offer?
Stories, stories, stories, for all ages and occasions. We share stories with schools, preschools & libraries, at music & environmental festivals. You’ll find us at children’s birthday parties, on storytelling bush walks, and keep a look out for our storytelling in local parks. Of course, we believe that any life event deserves a story or two. If you have a venue or an occasion we have a story to fit!
What’s your favourite story and why?
OOOOOhhh, tough question! I can’t go past the story Ulf told when I fell in love with him, Astrid Lingren’s ‘May My Linden Tree Play’. Ulf also still loves that one. But we do experience a love affair with whatever story we are working on… if we didn’t, we couldn’t tell it!
What can couples expect when they book you for their wedding?
Quite a few cups of tea, (herbal or bog standard) and questions to start with. We want to know all about you. We want to hear your stories, we want to know what makes you tick and how you click as a couple. Unrushed, unhurried, lets get to know each other so we can co-create a ceremony that shares the beautifully unique stories of you.
And finally, how do you (Ulf) feel about being a Roald Dahl look-alike? 😉
Ulf: Well Roald says “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, as long as somebody loves you” and that’s good enough for me.
Lindy: Roald also says “It’s impossible to make your eyes twinkle, if you aren’t twinkly yourself” and I think Ulf’s eyes are very twinkly indeed.
And here is more of Lindy’s daughters wedding to enjoy! Images thanks to Ben Wyeth Photography for capturing Jessie and Hayley’s gorgeous day.
Heart to Heart Storytelling are based on the Central Coast, NSW, and available for travel worldwide.
4/17/2018 0 Comments
There is an old Scottish saying, ‘A story should be told eye to eye, mind to mind and heart to heart’ and that’s just the way my storyteller husband Ulf and I love to tell our tales to children. No books and just the children, a story, and us. We have discovered that in this intimate space, magic happens…
Experts in the field of education and child development, while they may not believe in magic, are rediscovering the ancient art of oral storytelling (links to further reading below). Of course, story reading has long been recognised as a wonderful educational tool, however oral storytelling has now proven to have many extra benefits.
An oral storyteller brings their personality to the tale. The oral storyteller focuses his or her attention on the listeners, eye to eye, mind to mind and heart to heart. The storyteller brings not only their undivided attention but their own unique personality to the story telling. Ulf and I have very different styles of storytelling, I tend to be exuberant while Ulf has a gentle Swedish manner. The combination of personality and undivided attention gives the storytelling a sense of intimacy which children respond to.
The Storyteller is Free
A story reader is bound by the book and the text and looks back and forth between page and listeners, while the storyteller is free to respond completely to the listeners’ reactions. The storyteller may even change the story, expanding sections when the interest is great or altering the story to fit the needs of the listeners.
The freedom afforded by oral storytelling allows Ulf and I to take any story and rework it for a specific audience. When sharing stories in early childhood we always add rhymes, repetitions and actions in which the children can join in. We also encourage their contributions by asking questions like, “What would you put in the magic stone soup?” and incorporate the children’s answers into the story.
Exercising the Imagination.
Oral storytelling is a shared experience in which the child becomes an active participant in the creation of the story, while children who are shown illustrations and read to, are passive in comparison. Children listening to oral stories must exercise their imaginations. The storyteller helps them to create the pictures in their minds with words, facial expressions, tone and gesture but each child’s inner vision will be different.
There are many benefits to exercising the imagination and one crucial one is the development of empathy through learning to place one’s self in another’s shoes. Another outcome of an active imagination is the development of greater problem solving skills.
The ‘active’ nature of oral story listening also supports concentration and comprehension skills. Recent research shows listeners to oral storytelling retained more information and demonstrated better comprehension skills than children who were only read to.
A mother recently wrote to us and said that her daughter’s preschool was amazed when her daughter, Gaia, consoled a young friend who had fallen over with the 10-minute story, complete with actions, that she heard us tell on the weekend. Later that week Gaia told another one of our stories to her grandparents! Even we were amazed at how much she retained.
Enhances Emotional Intelligence
Storytelling also enhances emotional intelligence. The reactions of the storyteller to the story, the teller’s tone of voice and facial expressions, model emotions and the appropriate responses to emotions. Learning how to recognise emotions and how to express them is a vital step in child development. Listening to oral stories, also gives control to the child over the level of fear they experience, as they create the images in their minds that they are comfortable with.
Storytelling is of huge benefit to children who are not ready to read or are having reading difficulties. It is an enjoyable activity which increases their vocabulary and teaches them the sound and form of narratives without focusing on the written word. And, if children have participated in oral storytelling, they would have experienced the joy of co-creating stories, generating an eagerness to learn more literacy skills.
Research shows children remember more about a story when it is told to them, rather than read. Watching emotions play on the upturned faces of our audiences is an absolute joy for us. Their expressions tell us that they are fully engaged with the story and us, the storytellers. We are truly on the adventure together, that is the power and joy of storytelling.
Just Do It
Now that you know just some of the benefits of oral storytelling, we hope you feel inspired to put the book aside and try telling a story eye to eye, mind to mind and heart to heart…it’s absolute magic.
Heart to Heart Storytelling’s 8 top tips for telling tales
1 HEART: Oral storytelling is NOT telling a story by heart, it’s telling stories heart to heart. Storytelling is not memorizing words, it’s sharing images and events.
2 BARE BONES. Read your text a few times. Then strip it down to the bare bones. Where, who why, how and end. You may like to write a few words on each, or draw a bubble map or sketch a simple story board, or map. Keep it simple, keep it brief.
3 RATTLE THE BONES. Tell the barebone story to yourself or the dog. Then check, did you leave anything vital out? Then tell it again and again. Once you feel confident…
4 ADD SOME SENSES. Keep it simple and in words you feel comfortable with, describe some sights, smells, feel, sounds. Remember everyone has a couple of senses which are predominate… so it’s good to include a little of all of them to appeal to everyone in the audience.
5 ADD EMOTIONS. How is the character in your story feeling? Can you describe that in a way the children can relate to? Can you show it in your body language or facial expression?
6 FLESH IT OUT. Add rhymes, repetitions and actions or song for Early Childhood.
7.TELL IT. Tell it, tell it, tell it, tell it, tell it!
8. HAVE FUN. Play with the story and go on an adventure with the children.
REMEMBER: There is no such thing as a wrong story, just a new story!
Storytelling and Story Reading: A Comparison of Effects on Children ‘s Memory and Story Comprehension.http://dc.etsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2180&context=etd
Role of Storytelling in Early Literacy Development -- Louise Phillips http://www.australianstorytelling.org.au/storytelling-articles/n-s/role-of-storytelling-in-early-literacy-development-louise-phillips
The effects of storytelling and story reading on the oral language complexity and story comprehension of young children. http://wessonportfolio.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/46335801/Research%2520Article%25202.pdf
Storytelling engagement in the classroom: observable behavioural cues of children’s story experiences. Mundy-Taylor, J. (2013) (PhD), University of Newcastle. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1959.13/939911
The effect of teacher’s storytelling aloud on the reading comprehension of Saudi elementary stage students Nasser Saleh Al-Mansour *, Ra’ed Abdulgader Al-Shormanhttp://www.lisntell.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Storytelling-Aloud.pdf
The Magpie is Australia's Bird of the Year, narrowly defeating the Ibis in second place and poor old kookaburra in third. I do happen to love magpies, they often to drop in for a visit. Sometimes if we are up late they stand at the back door and sing for their breakfast.
This is a Magpie story I wrote some years ago.
The Magpie’s Song
Once upon a spring time, this story and a song were hatched.
As three magpie chicks pecked through their shells and spilled into their nest, it was apparent, even to the dimwitted parents that while their first two hatchlings were perfectly ordinary magpies, there was something extra ordinary about the third hatchling…and as the third chick grew feathers… her beauty became apparent for all to see. With feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight, they named her Mirrabooka, after the stars in the night sky.
And so it was that Mirrabooka grew into a bird of spectacular beauty. While the other magpie chicks were learning to catch food and build nests, Mirra was kept in the nest and taught how to preen. Mirra longed to hunt and fly like the other young birds but her parents were only concerned with her appearance so Mirra, with feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight stayed in the nest and preened.
Long after all the all other chicks had left the nest, Mirra’s parents persuaded her to stay behind, so they could bask in the glory of their daughter’s beauty. They even continued feeding Mirra so that her time could be better spent preening.
One day, when Mirra’s parents were sitting on the ground discussing which angle was best for viewing her beauty, a couple of neighbourhood cats pounced on the dimwitted birds and gobbled them all up. Alone in the nest, Mirra preened tears of sadness into her feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight.
Mirra was terribly lonely and she was very, very hungry. The only skill Mirra knew was preening and preening did not fill her belly. Eventually loneliness and hunger drove Mirra from the nest, but her flying was feeble and her hunting skills poor. Mirra called to the other Magpies but they thought her vain and they left her alone. Each night Mirra, with feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight returned to her nest to preen, hungrier and lonelier than the day before.
On the third day Mirra woke to find a scruffy, old magpie sitting in her tree. His feathers were grey rather than black and white and they weren’t smooth and sleek like Mirra’s but sticking out at rather odd angles. The old bird cocked his head and sang. Despite his appearance he had a fine strong voice and Mirra, with feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight listened and preened as the old bird sang.
He sang of flight and beating wings,
Of long fast glides on freezing winds.
He sang of practice and determination,
Skillful maneuvers through hanging branches.
He sang of flying for pure joy,
Of reaching heights only gods enjoy.
Then Mirra with feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight, beat her wings and flew. She flew for the learning, she flew for the yearning and she flew for the sheer joy of being a bird.
The next morning Mirra was delighted to find the old magpie still sitting in her tree. Mirra, with feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight listened and preened as he began to sing again.
He sang of worms and early morning,
Foraging for food under leaves fallen.
He sang of patience and keen sight,
Of creeping danger and delectable delight.
He sang of hunting as employ,
Of feeding his soul with pure joy.
Then Mirra with feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight, beat her wings and flew and hunted. She hunted for hunger, she hunted in wonder and she hunted for the sheer joy of being a bird.
The following day, after filling her belly, Mirra looked to find the old bird still in her tree. So Mirra, with feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight, listened and preened as he began to sing again.
He sang of friends and companionship,
Of lasting ties and fellowship.
He sang of friends won and lost,
Of what he gained and what it cost.
He sang of care and company,
Mutual respect and harmony.
Then Mirra with feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight realised that though the old magpie’s voice was strong and clear, his body was old and his eyes weak, and so she flew and hunted then she shared her food for fellowship, and the sheer joy of companionship.
In the cool of the morning Mirra, with feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight listened and preened as the old bird began to sing once more.
Love & Family
He sang of passion and of love,
Of sweet young partners long since gone.
He sang of romance and delight,
Of responsibility and sacrifice.
He sang of families he loved best,
Of joy and sorrow and empty nests.
Then Mirra looked at the old Magpie and saw his eyes growing dim. As a cold wind blew up and swirled around them she stretched her wing and sheltered him with feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight. Together they perched in companionable silence while the winter storm raged around them.
In the morning, Mirra listened… but there was no song, her tree was empty. Below the tree, she found the old magpie, as cold as the frozen winter earth. Then Mirra, with feathers black as midnight and feather whiter than starlight flew down and kept vigil, preening the old bird’s feathers with her tears.
As the golden light of the next day dawned, Mirra felt an unfamiliar pressure building…building, building in her chest. Feeling like her heart would burst, Mirra, with feathers black as midnight and feathers whiter than starlight gave her friend a parting caress and then took to the sky.
Up and up, she flew, higher and further than she had ever flown before. Mirra flew over gardens and towns, rivers and lakes, over valleys and plains and she flew to the highest mountain and there her chest burst open… and out flew a song;
Hopes & Dreams
And she sang of her friend and his life so swift,
Of her profound love and his great gift.
She sang of her joy and of her sorrow,
Of her hopes and dreams, for tomorrow.
She sang of a young bird lost and alone,
And a friend who found her heart and home.
Mirra sang from the depth and the breadth of her heart and when at last her song was done; she found to her surprise, another Magpie listening. He was a fine, handsome bird. Mirra looked down at her own feathers...she couldn’t remember the last time she had preened. Her feathers were scruffy and dull, but he didn’t see her feathers, he saw Mirra, with heart brighter than sunlight, and heart softer than moonlight …and together they sang:
Love & Joy
And they sang of love fresh and new,
Like mountain streams and morning dew.
They sang of happiness, joy profound,
Of hopes and dreams in each other found.
They sang of life and building nests
And they sang of an old magpie, who was heaven sent.
At last our Government has recognised that all love is equal, and now it will also be recognised as legal. Ulf and I had the honour of performing a handfasting ceremony for my daughter Jessie and her partner Hayley a few days before the announcement. (love has it's own timetable) These two wonderful women celebrated their love, their commitment to love one-another always in front of family & friends. And we found the perfect story to tell at their ceremony which speaks about the awesome power of love.
Love is Love is Love
Lindy: And soon we will celebrate the day, when all love is recognised as equal and legal. For Love is love is love… and heaven knows, the world needs more love. A very wise man Plato once said;
Humans have never understood the power of Love, for if they had they would surely have built noble temples and altars and offered solemn sacrifices; but this is not done, and most certainly ought to be done, since Love is our best friend, our helper, and the healer of the ills which prevent us from being happy.
Plato said that to understand the power of Love, we must understand that our original human nature was not like it is now, Plato tells a very different creation story…
A Very Different Creation Story
Ulf: In the beginning human beings were not singular beings as we are today but a fusion of two beings into one- each of these ancient beings had two sets of arms, two sets of legs, and two faces looking in opposite directions. So of course there were not just two sexes man and woman… There were three manwithman, womanwithman & womanwithwoman. The unified beings of two men were called the Children of the Sun, the second unified being of man and woman, were called the Children of the Moon and the third unified beings of two women called the Children of the Earth.
The power of these original unified human beings was great. So great that the Gods themselves felt threatened. So they looked for a way to end the humans' power without totally destroying them.
Mighty Zeus cast down his thunderbolt and split these unified-beings in two. Alas, not only reducing their power but rendering them incomplete, so that for evermore each half would long and search for their missing part. … And if by chance they found one another again they would throw their arms about one another, desperately trying, to be one united being again.
The Ancient Desire
This ancient desire is imbued in all of us. Today We still seek to return to our original double nature, reuniting two into one, and thus healing the state of humankind. Each of us when separated, having one side only, is always seeking our other half.
Those whose original nature lies with the Children of the Sun, are men who are drawn to other men. Those from the Children of the Moon, are men and women drawn to one another. And those from the Children of the Earth are women who love other women.
And when one of us meets our other half, we are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and would not be out of the other's sight even for a moment. We pass our whole lives together, desiring that we should be melted into one, to spend our lives as one person instead of two, and so that after our death there will be one departed soul instead of two; this is the very expression of our ancient need.
For our human nature was whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called Love.
Congratulations and much love to the beautiful couple.
PS: We'll do the legal stuff after the honeymoon
Many people are still of the opinion that storytelling is only an activity for bedtime or, for entertaining the little ones but there are some who have discovered the secret power of storytelling to Educate by stealth (don’t tell the kids). Yes, all manner of educational subjects can be beautifully wrapped, delivered and wholeheartedly consumed as story. But don’t believe me, let me tell you a story…
Truth and Story
Long long ago when the world was young, Truth walked the world as an old man. Everything about him was old, his hands, his face even the remnants of his clothes. His skin was all wrinkly, his joints gnarly and his clothes so ragged and threadbare, he was just about naked.
When he arrived in a town, he would walk up to people and say hello, but people wouldn’t look at Truth, they turned and walked away. “I don’t understand why don’t people want to hear what I have to say. When I’m not around people always say they want to hear the Truth, but as soon as I am here, they avoid me”
Then Truth saw a large gathering in the town square, the people were listening to someone with great interest. He approached the crowd thinking “Surely they will listen to me too”, but as he approached the people turned and hurried away. The only person left on the street was Story. Story was dressed in beautiful robes of all the colours of the rainbow. The fabric seemed magical, it’s hues shimmered and changed as she moved.
“I don’t understand” said Truth to Story. “People just don’t want to hear what I have to say. Is it because I am old?” “No” said Story, “Look at me, I am as old as you and people still listen to me.” Looking at the state of Truth’s clothes, Story added “Perhaps the problem is your appearance, you are rather stark. Come home with me and I will give you a beautiful robe to wear.”
So, Truth went home with Story and Story dressed truth into a beautiful robe of many colours. They walked through the town arm in arm…and rather than turn away, people hurried to talk to them. Truth and Story were even invited into their homes for dinner and there, they talked with families till the wee small hours of the morning.
And that’s how it is today. When Truth walks naked in the world, people turn away. But when Truth walks with Story, they are invited into our homes and our hearts.
When Education and Storytelling Walk Hand in Hand
Today I’m writing about the “Truths” of education, teaching such things such as environmental concepts, social responsibility, emotional literacy, mathematics, science and of course history, all these subjects can be beautifully wrapped in story and delivered in an engaging & entertaining way for easy & enthusiastic consumption. Environmentalists, Educators and Scientists are rediscovering the value of storytelling, a value which has long been known by our ancestors and still practiced today by various religions and Indigenous peoples.
In the book “Storytelling for a Greener World”, they describe storytelling as “Trojan Horse”. Storytelling is offered as an irresistible gift, and once it is consumed, then the metaphors and images go to work, sneaking past the citadel of the human mind, a perfect weapon to bring important messages to environmentally jaded people today.
Not Another Lesson!
While preschoolers are certainly not jaded, some primary school children will roll their eyes and sigh, “not another lesson on Reduce Reuse Recycle and Sustainability” We recently shared two programs of stories with an After-School Care Centre, we didn’t mention the word sustainability or talk about environmental concepts, but they were the themes of our stories. After the show we had some lively conversations with children as they shared their thoughts and feelings. The stories had penetrated their inner world, evoked their emotions, sparked their imaginations and their minds. Storytelling doesn’t just teach but it encourages children to care.
That week heart to Heart Storytelling also did an environmental program for preschoolers, again we dressed everything in story. The class then planted seeds to the rhymes and songs used in our stories. The teacher later told us “the children loved it and had some lovely reflections on the experience which sparked some discussions about caring for the earth”.
Storytelling is also a fabulous way to teach character, social skills and emotional literacy. These are some of our favourite stories, the folk tales with the wisdom of the ages which speak to the values of friendship, honesty, courage, co-operation, kindness & resourcefulness. Values like co-operation, or kindness are abstract concepts to young children, but dress them beautifully in story… then co-operation is the inner image of everyone working together to pull out The Enormous Stubborn Turnip, and kindness is understood by such archetypal characters as the helpful hen in The Rooster and the Bean.
How Many Bears?
Even mathematics can be taught by stealth, how many bears, chairs, bowls & beds were there? One of the best mathematical folk tales we have come across for older children is from India, A Grain Of Rice. In this story the Raja is hording rice while his people starve. A young girl tricks the Raja into giving her one grain of rice on the first day then, doubling the amount of rice every day for 30 days. The Raja thinks he is on a good deal till he does the sums, or better yet have your class do the multiplications.
History of course, is made of stories… then why break it down and teach names, dates and events? Rewrap history in its colourful stories, the outback explorers on exciting expeditions, the outrageous escapades of early convicts, or our seafarer’s rollicking maritime adventures.
And what better way to teach about our First Nation’s People and their rich heritage but by inviting them to come and share their stories.
Ulf and I encourage you to make story an integral part of your lessons, for when Truth, or should we say Education walks naked in the world, children may roll their eyes and turn away, but when Education walks with Story, they are invited into the hearts, minds and imagination of children everywhere.
A Grain of Rice pg. 286 The Right Story at the Right Time; Changing the Lives of Children & Adolescents One Story at a Time. M deCroes.
Storytelling for a Greener World; Environment, Community& Story Based Learning. Gersie, Nanson, &Schieffelin
The Enormous Turnip pg. 47 Once Upon a Time: Storytelling to teach Character and prevent Bullying. E.L.Pearmain
The Rooster and the Bean pg. 78 The Right Story at the Right Time; Changing the Lives of Children & Adolescents One Story at a Time. M deCroes.
Truth and Story Lindy Mitchell-Nilsson’s retelling of a Jewish Folktale
A heart to heart blog on life, spirituality, storytelling & stories.