Root Season - Finding the tap root of our story
Autumn is my favourite season. I find summer too demanding, especially living in Sweden where there is a pressure to fill those sun-filled days with activities. It is understandable as the darkness that is to come is heavy and long with only a few hours of sun in certain parts of the country and in the far north there is no sun at all. Yet I relish the onset of the darkness. I feel my body slacken, my shoulders drop and a deep exhale from my lungs; for me autumn and winter are the times of reflection and making sense of what has happened in the year. In the same way that I have prepared pickles and preserves that will help me through the winter from the fruits of the summer, I also need to make sense of what happened during the year, dig over the soil of meaning, in order to help me prepare my life land for what will grow in it next year.
I have been raking and tending over my trip to Lithuania where I have recently returned from working. It was a country I knew little about before being invited to be part of a festival there. It took place in the city of Kaunas which was given a European City of Culture Award. The overall theme of the festival was 'Journey Home' but the storytelling festival, that was a part of the larger one, was called, `Where Can I find You?`
I was asked to create a 'Telling the Future' Training the Trainer course with digital content and a final workshop face-to-face; as well as create a new performance piece to reflect the theme of the festival which I named, 'Where we are Found.'
The workshop followed a narrative process that I have developed which enables participants to imagine versions of a future they wish to live in, identify the 'present' that their journey is starting from and what created this present, ie. the history of the place. The process then continues enabling people to identify problems that will be faced, recognise solutions and where those solutions can be found and then look at how they will prioritise and implement those solutions. All of this is done whilst 'playing' with objects, lego and craft materials. What was very palpable in this workshop was the presence of history within the room. Lithuania, though not a very large country has a very large story. A story of occupation, freedom, more occupation, a fight for identity, culture and language. It was only free from Russian occupation in 1990, so this history was still living and breathing amongst the people. All of this had to be acknowledged within the creation of the 'present' - the tap root of the story cannot be ignored as it creates the landscape we are standing on. Yet, the tap root of the story of Lithuania is truly one of hope - because what is hope if not the belief in a better story for our future? What is courage if not feeling fear in the face of what we need to do to get to that future? What is gratefulness if not the showing of need? What was interesting was that these were all of the elements that I included in my show - a true symbiosis took place without any help from me.
I had thought my show, (which was focused on the story of two warriors and how they made sense of the war they had experienced,) was about redemption and forgiveness but the more I pulled it together, the more I realised it was about hope. I wrote the closing poem without any idea of this, yet these are the words that came to me
They stand on a field, covered in green
They stand on a field whose truth is now seen
Whose truth goes down deep, mycelial lace
Connecting, creating a dark sense of place.
Creating a network, like bees in a hive
Where memories thrive and stories survive.
For all that occurs cannot disappear
All that occurs must persevere
Be called out by name
But not stay the same
It must change
In its form
Become soft, become worn
To create the rich soil
From which new things are born
To create this sweet ground
On which we all are found
It is literally describing a section of the process in the workshop about naming that which is present in the room, in order to go forward towards that imagined future, that imagined story. The field provided a metaphor to represent how change can happen, showing how, that which seems horrific and absolute can become something else with time. The field is about growth and change but not about denial, it holds the truth of what happened there, but it is not defined by it.
It leaves me feeling that we all must have a tap-root connected to hope. You, me, all of those we connect with and work with, all of those who want a future that is better. What amazes me is that when we push that tap root down into the soil of our humanity, often it reverberates with the old myths; myths where two warriors return from the war, where animals spoke, where nature was animate and helped us on our journey towards what it meant to be human. I feel we do not need to create new stories for our future, no, we need to push ourselves deep down into the soft 'mythcelium' that connects us all - that nourishes our tap-root of hope.