To explore how to use stories to prepare for and heal from birth – and make meaning of other parts of your life – expecting and new parents can reach out to a Birthing From Within mentor or doula, and birth professionals can register for Birthing From Within training.
Stories called me to Scotland. Legends of ancient Picts, Vikings, Celts, Selkies, Old Ones, and Fair Folk…I wanted to experience the wild and ancient landscape that was not merely the setting for these stories, but often the protagonist. What stories would I learn, if I walked out into the silent moor and listened?
Stories come from the land, from some long conversation between the land and the people that walk that land.
But what does this mean for those that have been raised on land that is not necessarily their ancestral land? For the past 200 years, maybe longer, my ancestors have continually uprooted themselves, never staying in one place for more than a generation or two.
What happens to the land when its inhabitants are no longer in conversation with it? What happens to people that are no longer in conversation with the land?
I was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. The redwoods, bay laurel, madrona, manzanita, and live oak are interwoven with my childhood and have become part of my family story. But for millenia, this land was in conversation with the Ohlone people. What stories is it telling now? As an adult, I have lived in Arizona, Mexico, New Mexico, Oregon, and now Pennsylvania. In each of these places, I have picked up some felt sense of the story running through the land and through the people that have lived there for generations. This sense of place takes hold of me, captivating my imagination, but does it belong to me? Does my story lie elsewhere? I went to Scotland in search of some long-interrupted conversation.
The British Isles have been inhabited since Neolithic times. Cultures have come and gone and changed through migration and conquest. I know that my ancestors came from there. What was their relationship with the land? Were they rooted in one particular place for thousands of years, or were they on the move even then? I didn’t know, but I wanted to find out what stories the land might reveal.
I traveled to Scotland with my good friend, Heather. We gave ourselves two weeks to experience as much of the land as possible. Each day was more amazing than the last. We hiked in the Cairngorms, Isle of Skye, Glencoe, and Fort William. We took a ferry across the North Sea to Orkney, just to see the light, and possibly selkies. We visited Neolithic standing stones, cairns, and settlements. We walked freely through castle ruins covere with sea foam. Faeries wrought mischief. We both felt that the land was a third good friend in this adventure.
They say that once you visit the Isle of Skye it always has a hold on you, calling you back.
I can attest to this. My return to Pittsburgh was the beginning of some difficult months for me. Two days before the trip, I had learned that my place of employment was shutting down, so I would be returning to a very uncertain situation. In Scotland, I daydreamed about what new life I would create when I got back, but back at home, I felt lost and confused about my purpose. My heart and soul were still wandering that magical land, and I was sleepwalking through life.
Things started to fall into place, however, when I started painting again. I began a painting class called Legend. What followed was six weeks of listening within, writing, and painting – and connecting with hundreds of women around the world doing the same. I looked at the stories that have shaped my life, the stories that I am ready to let go of, and the stories that want to be told now. I had expected elements of Scottish land and lore to appear in my legend but they did not. What emerged on the canvas instead was the land of my childhood: redwoods, bay laurel, kelp… and sea otter, raccoon, bear, and mountain lion. I was surprised at how strongly my childhood surroundings came through; the redwood grove was calling me to come back and keep listening, the way I started listening in Scotland.
A conversation had opened up between the land I grew up in and the story I am living now. I had created my very own legend.
You can reclaim your conversations with the land in which you are living, or the land that you feel connected to, and thus bring new stories to life – stories that have never been told before.
What story are you dreaming? What story wants to be lived by you?
If you are an expecting or new parent, a Birthing From Within mentor or doula can help you use stories to prepare for and heal from the transitions of birth. If you are a birth professional, Birthing From Within training helps you explore how you can use stories in your work with parents – and in your own life.