Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Casting an eye

P1080269Do you get times when your mind is zooming about, travelling at the speed of light from one  remembered experience to another, let alone between remembered stories,  no doubt trying to make sense of things? As I write, my mind is doing just that. It makes for quite an adventure. But underneath, there are an  awful lot of feelings trying to settle themselves into some kind of equilibrium. Here’ a sample of where my thoughts have been.

For instance – and I know I’ve told the story in this blog in the past – my mind briefly touched down on that North American Indian story  – I know I’ve told it here before – in which there’s a hero who has survived and conquered all kinds of terrifying situations. Zombies. The underworld. Flames. And there he is, recounting his adventures around the camp fire, when he feels something strange on this arm. He looks down – it’s a spider – and he nearly jumps out of his skin. He can’t stand spiders.

Then again, there’s something that happened for real yesterday. My husband was working at his computer (it’s a fairly new one with a touch screen). Suddenly, as he reported to me later, the cursor on the screen appeared to have gone puzzoowee. It was jumping about all over the place. He couldn’t think why – not until he saw that there was an incredibly tiny spider walking across the screen.

It just goes to show how sensitive a touch-screen can be. But for me the story made sense because that’s just how my mind has been behaving since the cataract operation on my left eye on Wednesday.

Vividly in my mind since then has been the recurring image of the young Chinese woman in bright red tights whom I saw when I took a short walk over Westminster Bridge before going into St Thomas’s Hospital for my op. This young woman was dancing a kind of Highland jig, back and fore, back and fore, on the pavement in front of a young man who I assume was her partner who was making a video of her on his camera.

The other side of Westminster Bridge where the bridge overlooks the Houses of Parliament, a handsome young man was skilfully shuffling a pack of cards through his hands while his friend took photos of him with a camera on a selfie-stick.

Don’t ask why. Just accept. That’s what I’ve been telling myself as I try to make sense my increasing realisation of how important my eyes are to me and how deeply connected eyes are with thought and with feeling.

As the op began, the nice surgeon told me my job was simply to keep staring at the bright light. I did. The light wobbled. It began to move, to the left and back again, sometimes fading, sometimes bright. Then the light was no longer there (that made me panic inside) but the next second it was back, now full of colour and pattern, psychedelically moving around. Then suddenly, the surgeon’s voice declared, ‘That’s it. All done.’  

Spider web cropAfterwards, sitting briefly in the corridor outside, waiting to be taken to the recovery room, I felt incredibly alone and emotional. The surgeon came out, obviously noticed how I was feeling and said the op had gone very well.  Later, in the recovery room, he came  and shook my hand firmly and said I’d feel tired for a few days. I feel very grateful to him, not only for the op and its success but for somehow giving me permission to take some time to deal with what I was already realising had been a huge experience.

So now I am doing just that. Writing this blog, I must say, is helping. I’d not been looking forward to it this week. What on earth would I write about? Then, this morning, I took the time to look out some of my books about words and symbols. These have reminded me how, in many cultures, the eye is the symbol of heart and mind. It is the sign of the sun. It represents light. It looks both inward and outward.

Ah! Now I can find a bit of a line to connect some of the odd stuff that has been whizzing around in my brain. And it dawns on me that that’s what the task now has to be – establishing some kind of equilibrium between inner and outer experience after an operation on one of the organs that enable us to link the two.

So back to spiders. I’ve just remembered that it was Grandmother Spider who, in North American folklore, was one of the creatures who brought light to the world when she bravely succeeded in the mission to go and fetch a bit of the sun. Somehow in the circumstances, that story feels very settling.

PS: My top photo – very spooky – is of the crab-hand I saw on one of my Pembrokeshire beaches this summer. My bottom photo I hope speaks for itself. It makes me marvel at the wonderful web of connections a spider can make. 

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5 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ Casting an eye”

  1. Karen Says:

    So glad that the op went very well, Mary, and thank you for sharing this insightful and thought-provoking blog entry this week. Lots of love and a speedy healing are wished!

  2. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Karen, this is a very kind message. Thanks for your good wishes. Healing is proceeding well. Much love. Mary

  3. Kathryn Holt Says:

    Mary, our paths have crossed over the years since first meeting in the eighties when you were with me one day a week in my infant classroom as part of the wonderful National Oracy project. I think I told you on a course many years later what a fertile seed had been planted by watching my class entranced by your wonderful storytelling. Well now it seems our paths are doing more than crossing! ….for exactly a week on from your cataract operation I am preparing to go to Moorfields for my cataract surgery tomorrow. LIke you I sit here contemplating the importance of my eyes and that intersection of thought, feeling and vision. And I also reflect on another personal story of vision and narrative. My father went blind at 11 and my relationship with him was I believe very deep because of that. He never read to me but each night – on walks – on buses any where as we travelled arm in arm he would make up stories for me …and in my turn I told the world around us to him…an audio describer almost from the time I started putting sentences together. Years later training with Alida Gersie I remember an exercise following a telling of an Native American tale about a journey into darkness. course participants with hands on the shoulders of the person in front walked eyes closed having to trust in the path ahead. I remember being deeply affected by this ” alone and emotional ” in the way you described that immediate post operative time. Alida, quietly observant of my fear handed me a tissue and walked beside me. Without fail, every time I tell a story I think of both you and Alida and the wonderful gifts I received from you both. My work in storytelling gives me more joy than I can describe and both you and Alida were illuminators of the path for me. I have a fanciful plan which involves the three of us sharing food , sharing stories and using our eyes hands and hearts together playing for a day in my pottery studio….! What do you think?

    Hope you are recovering well and that even a dull January day has a new clarity about it. Can I also recommend a documentary on BBC I player about The late John Berger, author of “Ways of seeing” there is a wonderful synchronicity about its content as John, a week on from a cataract operation explores looking and storytelling in all its forms. Kathryn x

  4. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Dear Kathryn, Your message has moved me very much. I shall reply to you fully by email. Meantime, I am hoping your experience at Moorfields has been good and that you are recovering well. All the best, Mary

  5. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Dear Kathryn, Your message has moved me very much. I shall reply fully in an email. Meantime, I hope your experience at Moorfields has been good and that you are recovering well. All the best, Mary

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