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Would you buy someone else’s dream – with your last pennies?


In January 2012, while on a storytelling course, I was given a story to c0-narrate with a colleague.  It was about a man who bought a dream – and, like some stories do, it left Johnson and I wondering about what the message of the story really was.  Everytime we thought we had grasped it, is seemed to slip away, or raise a different question.  A skeleton version of the story goes like this:

A poor man was sitting with his friend who was fast asleep.  As the friend woke up, a bee flew out of his nose.  He shared his dream which was about finding a pot of gold under a nandin bush in the garden of the richest man in Osaka.  The poor man was so impressed by the dream he took all his savings and bought the dream.  His wife was angry – what use was someone else’s dream?  The man left home, armed with hope, and walked 400 kms to Osaka, and found the rich man’s house.  He asked to spend the night there, and told the rich man the story, asking for help to find the gold.  As he slept the rich man got his servant to dig in the garden and they found a pot.  when they opened it a bee flew out – and there was nothing else inside! He re-buried the pot, and the next day, the poor man dug it up – to find nothing.  He was devastated, and almost did not return home for he was ashamed of what he had done.  But his love for his wife was so strong he returned home.  When he got there she ran up to him and told him that on the day he left, she heard bees in the attic – and when she opened to door a bee flew out, and then lots and lots of gold coins fell out of the  attic.  They were so happy, and were never poor again.  (for a written version of the story go to – http://www.timmyabell.com/mandream.htm or google it)

This story left me feeling like I had not really ‘got it’.  And then I forgot about it… until November when I went to a show by Hugh Masekela and Sibongile Khumalo called ‘Songs of Migration”.  It was a beautiful show exploring, in song, narration and movement, people leaving home in search of … work, riches, refuge – based mainly in South Africa during apartheid, but also touching on immigrants from other parts of the world, and migration in post apartheid South Africa.  At some point Hugh said something like, “Those who stayed at home long for those who have gone.  And those who have gone long to return, but cannot because they have not found what they set out to find.  They are too ashamed to go back.”  And in that moment I thought of that man who had bought a dream – and almost did not return because how could he?  He had used up everything they owned on a ‘foolish’ dream.  How could he face his wife?  And yet his love for her took him back, ready to face the consequences of his foolishness – and he found riches, and love and joy.

There is so much richness in this story – still more to be mined, but as I think of this year – my prayer is that we all have the courage to follow our dreams, and to have the courage, when it fails (or seems to have failed) to go back home to the place of love and acceptance, to have the courage to face the consequences of our failure – and to be open to surprise!!!!!

Hollow tree trunks


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In January I went on a one day retreat to gather myself, and my thoughts for 2012.  It was an impromptu invitation by a good friend and fellow storyteller, Gilly, to join her and a group of her friends – and just what I needed.  The venue was an old farm shed turned workshop /retreat space – with a lovely spacious garden to sit in.  As the day unfolded, we went outside, alone, to reflect – and I found a beautiful old, hollow tree to sit in and contemplate.  It was a warm womb-like space, with light filtering through in interesting places – and though I hate creepy crawlies, I did not even think about them.  I just enjoyed the feeling of being held in a space – barefoot, and on ‘holy ground’, listening.  And in that space some of what I was to do this year began to emerge.  Mostly I had a sense that this year was about being present, and listening and responding.  And it was also about a creative journey – that would not unfold quickly, all at once, but slowly, requiring patience, wisdom, trust and resilience.  As I drove home I was also clear about what I would not take on, and what I would embrace in January – and the biggest thing was committing to a 5 week storytelling course – daily from 9 am to 4 pm!!!

At the end of January I started the storytelling course called the Storyteller in the community and what an amazing journey!!  It was what I needed on so many levels, and gave me the resilience I needed to go through this year – challenges that I could not even begin to imagine.  And every week we were given a story to work on. One week I was given the story of the Trumpeter Hornbill, and as I read the story my heart beat faster because I knew this was a story I needed to work with.  I preface this with the statement that I love stories because the powerful stories have many layers of meaning, speaking to each listener in a different way and so often what a story seems to be about is not the only thing it is about.   This is particularly true of the story of the Trumpeter Hornbill – and before I speak about what the story reminded me of – here is a link to the story:

http://www.wisafrica.com/tag/trumpeter-hornbills-faithless-wife/

For me the story was about the things I really wanted to do/ felt called to do and the things that distracted me from “sitting on the eggs, and waiting for them to hatch”.  It was particularly powerful after having started the year drawn to a hollow tree.

So as this year draws to an end I reflect on what I have done, and what I have paid attention to – and though it has been a really sad year – with the passing on my mother – I  believe that for the most part I have paid attention to the things that matter, and not been distracted by those attractive things, that I can do, or am good at, that lead astray.  A lot of the work that has come to me has required me to use my storytelling skills – and what started out as voluntary work has led to at least one paid piece of work! I have paid attention to my family in South Africa and in Uganda.  My trips to Uganda, although they have been about sorting things out, have enabled me to grieve Maama in a place where people know her – and to see her reflected back to me by the people I have met.  (I could not have done this in Cape Town – not in the same healing way).  And somehow I have felt my roots grow deeper – centering me more.  I have attended gatherings that were meaningful, attended artistic performances that have fed my soul and had a sense of being on the right path – even though I cannot see the end of the path.  I know I have not yet arrived, but I know that this time I have stayed in my hollow tree trunk, and trusted that in time the eggs will hatch.

And so, it was appropriate, as the year drew to an end, that I found another hollow tree trunk – and a very old one at that.  And although I did not sit in it – I touched base with it, and all the meaning it held at the beginning of the year.  And as I reflect on the year that past, I realise that I was immersed in storywork – the love of which I shared with my mother – and I have carried a sense of being with her in all her fullness even I was carving my journey.

May you, in 2013, stay true to the things that are important, and if needs be, may you be sealed in a hollow tree trunk until the eggs you are caring for hatch!!!!

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Africa! my Africa!


My poem, ‘Velvet Skies’ is included in Africa! My Africa!  and it looks like the books will be delivered from the printers on the 20th of December !  Watch this space for the launch dates.

Africa! My Africa! an anthology of poetry is

“Patricia Schonstein’s personal selection brings together a wide, rich range of poems all held together by a simple yet deep honesty.

The words of Nobel Laureates, well-established poets, emerging poets and even Cape Town’s homeless people share the pages, expressing eloquence and wit, and reminding us of poetry’s unique place in the landscape of the human heart.”

She has included poems from over 100 poets!

As part of the process Patricia has, over the course of this year, been reading the poems out loud in very many parts of Cape Town – just randomly!  Here are some links from her blog:

http://patriciaschonstein.bookslive.co.za/blog/2012/04/05/detention-kabali-kagwa-mtshali/

http://patriciaschonstein.bookslive.co.za/blog/2012/09/05/reading-a-poem-by-takawira-dururu-outside-kwikspar/

http://patriciaschonstein.bookslive.co.za/blog/2012/09/03/reading-a-poem-by-siyabonga-sibiya-at-the-red-sofa/

http://patriciaschonstein.bookslive.co.za/blog/2012/11/01/reading-a-poem-by-rudyard-kipling-outside-clarke%E2%80%99s-bookshop-in-long-street/

Patricia is an internationally published and critically acclaimed author and poet, a philanthropist and outspoken advocate for peace and reconciliation.   You can read more about her at – http://www.patriciaschonstein.com or at http://patriciaschonstein.bookslive.co.za/blog .

I am really excited about this project because it was put together to raise funds for another dream that she has – SEED READERS.  Seed Readers is a project that will produce story books, for children,  based on principles of peace, non-violence, non-racism and care of the earth. They will seed an understanding of our true role as custodians of the earth and oceans. They will inspire children to live ethically and in a sustainable manner.

Please email Afpress@iafrica.com to place your order of Africa! My Africa!

The Crane Wife – Asking Too Much From Stories


The Crane Wife – Asking Too Much From Stories.

This is a wonderful story, and a wonderful blog on storytelling!

Going full-circle


7 years ago, I was invited by Dorian Haarhoff to facilitate a workshop on using storytelling for development for a People to People Ambassadors group from the United States.  It was at the Centre for the Book next to the Company Gardens in Cape Town.  This led to a collaboration (between Dorian, Elma Pollard, Toto Gxabela and I) a few years later on a project for UNICEF that we called Storywell.  In this project we developed a programme for Caregivers of orphans and vulnerable children in the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga provinces on the use of stories and creative process to provide psycho-social support to each other and to the children in their care.  The Storywell concept grew out of a belief that

  • everyone has a well of stories inside them that they can draw from
  • we can all story well – i.e.  tell stories in a way that engages the listeners
  • telling and listening to stories helps us to heal and be well

We continue to do Storywell work, individually, in various ways, although we do not always call it Storywell.   I continue to work with the concepts and understanding in coaching, in my leadership development work, and working with change in organisations.  It also underpins the Bodaciously me…! networking events that I organise for women in some ways.

Well, today Dorian and I worked together again, after 3 years (during which I focused more on birthing and looking after the unexpected gift of a child, just as I was getting ready for an empty nest – but that is a story for another time).  Again it was at the Centre for the Book, where we met 7 years ago, and this time we were working with delegates to the Global Alliance Summit for Ministries and Departments of Peace.  Dorian was doing a two-day pre-conference training on the use of storytelling for peace building, and I was the guest storyteller.  My role was to give them experience of the power of storytelling and story-listening.  I shared personal stories, in poems, and a few folktales – and this led to an unexpected conversation on ways in which one uses stories.

One of the most interesting insights for me was the conversation we had about endings – not all stories end with ‘they lived happily ever after’ but all powerful and strong stories end with a sense of hope.  This is an important understanding that one needs to carry when using stories for development work.  Hope might mean that the protagonist is remorseful, or maybe the rains have come again, or as in the Nama story about !Urisib, where even though the original verdant land is not restored, once a year the flowers come back to Namaqualand and the people can enjoy them.  Storywell for Peacebuilding – potentially powerful processes!!!

Hello world!


                                        

 

 

Images – in pictures or words, propel us forward and backward, inward and outward.  The molten gold pouring over the landscape, like honey from a golden orb, draws me into a view that I see everyday from my balcony.  And as I look I see more than I saw the first time, maybe less than I saw yesterday – it is old and yet new.  As I take it in I am moved – all of me – I smile at the beauty, and my mind asks a question, starts to tell a story – of now, and the past, and tomorrow, my breathing slows down, my body relaxes and I know again, with all of me.

Using story, art and movement in working with change and development does just that.  It draws us inward and outward, and enables us to see something that we engage with daily in a new light, from a new perspective – and we can the find a new possibility.

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