Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Lifting the Sky

Sometimes getting a shock can make you do silly things. But another thing it can do is initiate immediate recollections of how important some people have been in your life.

Quite early yesterday morning,  Paul came downstairs with news he’d just picked up on his mobile phone that a friend of ours in Canada had died. We’d never been able to spend long periods of time with her. But she was a very loving and loveable person. She was the wife of a composer who’d been important to me in my work life.

So suddenly and with such a sense of shock does a vital piece of your life return to you, huge both in memory and feeling. Lori Davies was herself a distinguished nurse.   I came to know her some 20 years ago. She was married to Victor Davies, the renowned Canadian composer who had been commissioned to write music for a story I was telling at that time. The story was a very old Salish myth that, in our joint endeavours, became known as Lifting the Sky. The music Victor composed for the story was first performed in public by the North American Welsh Choir, who had commissioned it, with me telling the story. The performance was the  major part of a storytelling evening I was giving in Shelton, Washington in May  2001.

The story tells how, back in the beginning times, the sky was much too low. So low that sometimes a boy or girl  climbing a hill would get lost because of accidentally stepping into the sky. Often, too, the lowness of the sky made the people of earth feel very down-hearted and, as a result, they often grumbled. Eventually, however, a new idea arose. Why didn’t the people of earth attempt to lift the sky? If they succeeded, it would give them more room and make them more healthy. It would also enable them to grow more and better plants.

So plans were made. All the different peoples of the land were told to be ready, each with a very long pole, on a particular day at a particular time. The elders would begin the chant that all would then echo and as they sang, so the people would heave at the sky with their poles. So it happened. Yaa, sang the elders, Ho, replied the people. And the chanting went on until, before very long at all, the sky began to move. Just a tiny bit at first but then, as the chant continued, with more and more noticeable effect the sky rose higher and higher. The people were very happy with what they achieved.

Of course, there are still days when the sky feels too low for some of us. But there can be no doubt that, especially if we could sing the lovely piece that Victor Davies composed, we  could come to feel better.

I think that grief, grief at losing a very loved person, is one of the things that can make the sky feel low and the earth feel altogether empty and sad. There’s no remedy for that, only some softening of the blow that may begin to come from time and the sharing of the grief. So I hope that dear Victor Davies may feel a tiny bit of comfort from remembering the story of Lifting the Sky and the wonderful music he wrote that gave it a whole new dimension.

P.S. My illustrations today are almost self-explanatory. The top is of course a sky – but it’s in Mathri, not North America; the bottom one is copies of Victor’s fine piece.

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