Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ What next?

P1080494When things are rough, you sit tight. That’s the conventional wisdom. Yet when things are tough, you surely must also keep your eye on possibilities for improvement, the chance for things opening up.

It’s completely clear from the newspapers and TV that, for many of us, it feels like it’s been a horrible year. Syria, Brexit, Trump – whatever your politics, it feels like the world has got itself into the most horrendous mess. Frightening too. Maybe it’s all in the stars, the personal mirroring the public and vice versa, but numerous friends have also been declaring of late that it’s been a tough year in their own lives too.

So at first I felt completely flummoxed when I began thinking about this week’s blog. What could I possibly say? What story might there be? What pictures? Then, most unexpectedly as I floundered around, a little tale popped into my mind. It’s a tale of personal experience, though not my own. I heard it a long time ago and it’s got nothing at all to do with New Year as such. Yet as I thought about it, the story felt to me like just the right thing. For what could be better for this New Year than the idea that something wonderful might occur,  something that could bring a sense of a new dimension of life and hope?

The story: Opening Up

For ages, she’d wanted to go to Japan and now, being there with her boyfriend, she couldn’t have felt more pleased. Each day at some point, the two of them would make the trek down the hill into the little town. Then each day after taking in the fascinating difference of it all, they’d make their way back up the hill to the house where they were staying.

Soon, they began to realise that every day, when they passed the house on the bend of the hill, they were seeing the same thing. An old man would be sitting on the verandah outside,  each day in almost exactly the same position. Hunched over on his low stool, he’d be leaning forward, looking at a plant in a pot near the door. He looked as if he couldn’t bear to miss a single moment of its existence except that, each day as they passed, he would raise his head and wave at them as if to acknowledge their existence.

Then came the day when the two young people heard the sound of many voices as they approached the house on the bend. Coming to the gate, they saw people inside, all happily talking and smiling. And when they caught sight of the old man, he was no longer sitting but standing and also looking very happy. When he caught sight of them on the road, he raised his arm, beaming the while, and waved to them to come in.

At once, the young people saw what had happened. The plant on the verandah had borne a most beautiful flower. Huge, white-petalled and wide open,  the old man could not have looked more joyful as he showed it to them. Then when he looked back at them and, especially when he looked at her, he seemed to be making some connection between her and the flower, as if somehow she had made it happen.

Afterwards, the old man said what was obviously the name of the flower and someone else said the name meant Moonflower and explained that the plant that had produced it was one that is known to flower just once every hundred years. And when the old man said the name again, he gestured towards his young visitor’s face as if to give the name to her. From then on, as she told me when she told me this story, she kept the name as part of her own. Moonflower. It obviously meant a lot to her.

Opening up: my thoughts

P1080409Retelling someone else’s story of personal experience is harder than telling one of one’s own. You worry about whether you might be getting it wrong, forgetting some crucial detail or misremembering some part of the tale. Nonetheless, when the story has moved you, you’ve been told it in a public setting and your memory of hearing it remains very vivid, I don’t think there can be anything wrong about retaining the feeling that you would like to share it.

I was told the story I’ve retold here at a beginner’s story-round at the Festival at the Edge. I’ll never forget the essence of it or the face of the young woman who told it. It must have been evident to all present how much the experience had meant to her. I realise I have retained it as a story of receiving something that opens up a whole new dimension of life. Perhaps that is something that might especially be hoped for this New Year, a wish that we might all share. So I hope that if the young woman who told the story should happen to read it,  she will forgive me for any errors I’ve made in the retelling and feel happy that her story made such an impact.

PS: Since it has felt like a very messy year, my top photo is of rubbish – plastic rubbish collected from a Pembrokeshire beach. And since one type of thought is reflection, the bottom photo is one of the ‘reflections’ photos I love taking.  


Tags: , , , ,

4 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ What next?”

  1. Larry Says:

    You are not alone on that side of the world in thinking it was a messy year, and thanks for the picture of the plastic rubbish to keep that image public, for of course that BIG worry, i.e. the state of the world’s beaches, rivers, woodlands, deserts, mountains and all of what Nature has bestowed in Her Magnificence upon selfish Humanity is becoming increasingly Un-ignorable. I think of my own childhood and growing up in contrast to the concern of today for that world. It could be that because I’ve become increasingly housebound of late and spend my afternoons parked unhealthily in front of tv when lots of nature programmes are screened, I’m being slapped in the face by the obvious evidence that nobody really cares about the preservation of the environment we’ve squandered so shamelessly ( and YES, I’ve done a lot of that squandering, though I stop short of littering the waterways with waste, but I DO try to recycle and if out in boats, I’m not one to throw stuff overboard). But, honestly each little attempt to practice care on most of our parts, because they seem so feeble in comparison with the outright desecration of what we’ve been blessed with sometimes seems discouraging.

    Larry in New Zealand

  2. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Dear Larry, Your thinking as you describe it here (and so beautifully) is spot on as far as I’m concerned – except that I think there are people who care. But as you say, our efforts feel so feeble compared with what is needed. I suppose all we can do is continue to urge against the destruction of beauty and persuade others to think that way too. Much love, Mary

  3. Jean Says:

    Dear Mary – Thank you for this story — an inspiring start to 2017. I feel it’s going to be another tough one but i hope for us all it has a moonflower moment. Lots of love — Jean xxx

  4. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Hi Jean, I like your term, moonflower moment. Moonflower moments are what we all need. Much love and Happy New Year, Mary.

Leave a Reply