Last week I went to school. The Haliburton School of Fine Arts is a hive of summer creativity and fun for all ages. I took a course on Storytelling as an Expressive Art. Our instructor Faye Wilkinson took us on a trip around a dozen different ways to tell stories and encourage others to tell their stories.
By the end of the week the class was asked to share stories. I’d created a version of Noah’s Ark that had everyone pick an animal to be to go along on the voyage with me – Captain Chicken. It was a story about new beginnings and human identity. And it was a story about the awful loneliness associated with great loss.
My story was well received for the most part. I gave it at the end of the day. As I walked out to into the parking lot towards my car, my head was full of what I did right with the story – the laughs it received in the right places – these approvals made me feel very large. And as I walked I remembered what I had done wrong – the places where i’d lost or confused my listeners – and that made me feel very small.
I was so consumed by these thoughts that I didn’t notice the great shadow circling the parking lot in smaller and smaller circles approaching. Just before reaching my car, I heard a great swoop of air beneath wings. Instinctively i hunched my head down - but it was too late. A huge black crow clutched with long claws the scruff of my shirt collar and swept me up into the air.
I was terrified. As my feet left the ground the wind left my lungs in a feeble cry for help. But I’d skipped out of the class early and everyone was still intent on their art and no one noticed me being lifted high up above the parking lot. I thought for sure that this was the end of my large little life.
As the great crow flapped and flapped and flapped its way higher into the sky, higher than the tree tops, higher than the highest building, higher than the surrounding hills, I watched with fear and wonder as the great little village of Haliburton became smaller and smaller.
The black bird had lifted me up to where birds catch the winds that lift from the hills. I could see the whole town all at once. The main drag was a busy ant colony of tourists and townsfolk trading dollars and services. The houses were matchboxes and even the biggest buildings where the ants stored up their hopes and dreams became tiny as the crow lifted me higher and higher still. Soon, with the flap, flap, flapping of the huge bird’s wings beating a steady rhythm above me, I saw that I could fit the whole town below into my cupped hands.
The crow gave a mighty “CAAAWWWW” and startled - I looked up and gasped at what filled my eyes now. We were so high in the sky that I could see the curve of the earth’s horizon. I could see for miles and millennium beyond the tiny daily traffic of my world to the very edges of GOD’s creation.
The crow circled and I felt my heart fill and fill with all the wonders of the earth; the rolling forests and farms, the great prairies beyond, the dry deserts places, the vast mountain ranges, and the trail of lakes and rivers that found their way across and through it all.
My heart filled and filled. I saw the sun go down in the west and in the east a full moon rose to lift the curtain of the sun and reveal the endless universe of stars where the crow was taking me. My heart ached and hurt to be so full of the beauty and wonder of the MAKER’s art and with a sudden sharp white hot pain in my chest my heart burst open like a volcano. The white hot heat shot through the top of my scalp. It ran down my spine filling my chest cavity and disintegrating my guts. The lava filled my bowels and overflowed down into my legs until it poured fire from my toes.
I was fire and flame and the crow could no longer hold me in its clutches. And so I fell. I dropped like a stone, down, down, down, burning brighter and leaving a smoky trail of regret behind. The good people of Haliburton thought they saw a meteor falling to earth that night.
But miraculously, surprisingly, i wasn’t afraid. My fear was in the smoke behind me. It burned away with my too small hat and my too big shoes and all of my big and small worries.
I went into the water like a knife into a sheath. PHHSSS-I-TTT.
I plunged down, down, down into the deep, cold, dark waters until – until my body found its weight again and as I slowed I gave my torso a little twist - and found that it moved me sideways through the water.
That felt good. And so i twisted again with a stronger and larger intent. That shot me ahead into the dark and so I twisted and wiggled and swam so fast that I thrilled to weightless water making way inviting every next move. Motion and notion were one. I swam and swam and swam through the dark deep night.
i swam without tiring knowing only joy in the ease of endless energy and a watery wonder of pleasure. I swam through the night - and as I swam - I passed through and over many dark and hidden places. Sometimes I swam in a school and sometimes I swam alone and although I never thought for a moment I remembered everything that had been lost and lost everything that had been taught with each passing year. I swam through the memories of joy and sorrow the same as I swam through memories of day and night. There was no good or bad – just remembering and feeling.
I swam and swam until the forgotten first memories of my childhood eyes were awakened and I saw the world anew for the first time again.
It was only when the sun’s morning rays sought me out down in the deeps that I spun around to see myself and I thought – and as I thought I was suddenly without breath. Surprised by the panic of not enough - I turned up out of the inner mysteries and with a great splash shot above the surface into the air gasping in a huge lungful of life.
Landing with a laugh of wonder and joy I looked about me and saw that I stood at the doorstep of my home. I reached up and opened the door and entered into my world never again too small for my inner fish and never again too big for my outer moon.
Note: the Crow on Moon is an image from Erik Samwel