Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘visualisation’

Storytelling Starters ~ A helping hand

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

The day was bright and the school, inside, looked fresh and clean with several new classrooms and corridors added from last year. Four little scenes remain in my mind from the day.

A storytelling day: four memories

P1070779Most striking was the boy that came out front to describe his visualisation from the story I’d just told his class. It was the story (recounted here last week) where Kaa the Thunderbird expresses his jealous anger for Earth Mother Nokomis whom he believes is more loved than him. What I won’t forget is this boy’s conviction as he painted his word pictures of Kaa and Nokomis at the beginning of the story. I could see he really had seen them, especially when he described Kaa with his strong claws gripping the edge of the mountains and his ‘electric wings’ outspread (and then as he quietly added, turning to me, ‘you know, the electricity that comes from them’).

Funniest was the response of the oldest class when I wondered if any of them remembered my visit last year. All over the room there was nodding assent as one girl spoke out, ‘Is it you who told us that story of the glass eye?’ Ah yes, I thought, I’m not surprised they’ve remembered that one. (It’s the gruesome story included in my posting for February 13, 2016). 

Most thought-provoking was the boy who, as his class was coming into the hall, was described to me by a member of staff as someone who is always causing trouble and who simply cannot concentrate. This boy made at least four sensible contributions to questions I asked and he listened throughout.

Most dramatic was the moment when, on the first of the two sessions in which I told The Great Rain,  all the pots of daffodils ranged on the window ledges behind me landed with a whoosh and a clatter on the wooden floor, pots and flowers and water and all. ‘Whoo!’ was the response from all in the room and not just because of what had happened but because of its timing. To introduce the story, I’d led the children in making rain with clicking fingers and tapping hands, and by now I was describing the storm that was brewing as Kaa’s rage mounted to the point of exploding. The strong gust of wind that blew those daffodils over must have been fully aware of where the story had got to!

Of course, after such a day in a school, the storyteller thinks back. Did I choose the right stories? Can I judge their effect on the children? Will anything have been remembered by the children or their teachers?  And what kind of difference would I like to have made?

As it happens, thinking those thoughts from Monday, I feel conscious of what is perhaps a new aspiration that comes from the totally different kind of day I experienced this Wednesday when I had my second cataract operation.

A hospital day: a lasting effect

Stones - stepping stonesThe eye surgeon on Wednesday was hugely impressive in a very quiet and straightforward way. He introduced himself clearly and with no sense of self-importance. When I was lying down ready, he told me quite clearly what he wanted me to do but also said that, if there was anything different that was needed as he proceeded, he would tell me and also that if I needed anything, such as to move, I could say so to him.

During the operation, he told me from time to time, quietly, simply and very briefly, what he was going to be doing next. At some point, he said we were now about half way through. And on several occasions, he said, ‘You are a wonderful patient’. I’m sure he says the same thing to all his patients but I found it wonderfully reassuring.

But the thing that affected me most is that, as I sat up when the operation was over, he put out his hand to help me up onto my feet and then, instead of handing me over to a nurse, himself led me out of the operating room and all the way to the waiting room. It was only a short walk. But the experience of him doing that affected me greatly both at the time and since. What a humility of approach, what a kindness.

And what a difference it has made. Following the quiet simplicity of that surgeon’s approach, the particular kindness of that hand is something I will never forget. It helped me back into the day and it has helped me see quite clearly the kind of path I’d like my storytelling to follow.

 PS: My camera takes snapshots and I hope can represent the sort of snapshots you get from a storytelling day. Stepping stones making a path into a wood can, I hope, represent my idea of a storytelling path that I’d like to follow. 

Storytelling Starters ~ Seeing it out

Saturday, January 7th, 2017

Cropped paperweightProfessor Ruth Finnegan is a specialist in oral tradition. I remember being especially moved when I read her 1981 book on storytelling among the Limba people of West Africa. One storyteller she wrote about told her he’d need several days of preparation before telling her a particular long story she wished to hear. I won’t get the exact words he used quite right at the moment (the book is not to hand) but, as I remember it, what he said was that, in order to be ready for his telling, he’d need several days alone in his hut ‘seeing the story out’.

What especially interests me about that Limba storyteller is that he was blind. He was one of a number of renowned Limba storytellers of that time who were blind. 

Eyes and eyesight are currently much on my mind. Just before Christmas, I received a date – it’s next week! - for a cataract operation on my left eye. The right eye will. I hope, be attended to soon after. Both operations are now much needed: my sight has become foggier and blurrier as the days have gone by.

My personal situation has made me think a lot (and not for the first time) about the links between sight and storytelling. Perhaps the story in my repertoire that feels closest to me is the one that was entitled The First Storyteller in the book where I first came across it. It’s a Chinese myth about an Emperor’s son who was born blind and, in consequence, abandoned. In the absence of sight, the boy grew up becoming acutely attuned both to the world of nature and of people. What he heard, felt and experienced were what made him into a storyteller. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Doors again

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

P1040451Doors have so many meanings, signal so many different things. At the end of the Second Branch of the Mabinogion (see below for details), there is a brief account of a marvellous journey. Seven chieftains are returning from Ireland bearing with them the head of Bendigeidfran, their leader. He has told them to bury his head on the White Hill in London. This will give protection to this island for the future (and by the way, it makes me think that, if his head is still there, we really have no need of Trident.)

On the way, the seven chieftains are twice delayed, once at Harlech in North Wales where, for seven years, they are enchanted by the singing of the birds of Rhiannon. Then they move on to the island of Gwales (it’s what we now know as the island of Skokholm off the coast of Pembrokeshire). On that island, there is a royal dwelling in which they find a large hall in which there are three doors. Two doors are open. One is closed. And Manawyddan, who is one of the seven bearers, says it must not be opened.

For 80 years, the seven chieftains do not open the door and in all of that time, they remain oblivious of all the sorrows they’ve ever seen or suffered. Nor do they age – and all the while the head of Bendigeidfran, provides good company to them as he had promised. Then of course – for it has to happen – one of the seven men opens the door that’s been shut and at that point they all know they must move on. (more…)

Storytelling Starters: Desert Island

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Desert Island is a marvellous and deceptively simple game that was developed by myself and storytelling colleague, Karen Tovell. Karen and I made it up for one of our famous Drill Hall workshops. These were monthly day-long workshops which began in 1986 and went on for 10 whole years, moving in latter years to the Holborn Centre for the Performing Arts.

We covered a great deal of ground in those workshops. An enormous number of stories got told both by ourselves and participants too. We also developed a huge number of exercises and activities that enabled people to explore these stories, discovering their hidden depths and using them as take-off points for creating new tales. (By the way, one person who used regularly to come to the workshops sent me a great email this week saying he still uses some of the ideas and routines we did there. Any more of you out there?) (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Making Connections 3

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

Time is key in modern life. In so many ways, we are governed by it. We keep track of it on watches and phones, schedule appointments on calendars and computers, set electronic beeps to remind us of upcoming events, timetable weekends and holidays along with our work. This week, Making Connections tells a traditional Native American story about the power that time exerts. It also suggests a key storytelling method that can help to get that power back.

Keys – and a tale for adults and older children

Background to the Story

How Mink Stole Time is a myth of the Salish people, a North American Indian people of the North West Pacific region. I myself have a personal link with Salish traditions. Some years ago, when the North American Welsh Choir asked me to suggest a story that could form the basis of a new commission for piano, choir and storyteller, I put forward a Salish story about the lifting of the sky and the bringing of light to the people. The resulting piece – Lifting the Sky – was composed by Canadian composer Victor Davies and American poet Carolyn Maddux and in its first performances in the Olympic Peninsula, I narrated the story. (more…)