Monday, August 19, 2013

Speaking to the Stars, storytelling on Crete. Julie Perrin 2013

There is always a bit of faith involved in signing up for a course; faith in the teachers, the intention, the other people who will make up the temporary community that you become for that week or several weeks. On arrival Stella Kassimati took us on a walking tour of the village of Amari, beginning with the spring of drinking water – ‘If you drink from this spring, word has it that you will come back to Amari.’ We passed the place where the women used to gather to wash the clothes; we looked up to the old bell tower and stood under the great spreading tree outside the village’s only coffee shop.
The course information – which was useful, considered and accurate – had told us to come to Amari prepared. There are no shops, no ATMs, no pharmacies. We needed to be organised. There was an enormous freedom in the lack of distraction. I got to the end of the week and realised the only time I had actually reached into my wallet was to buy a beer at the beach. 

These courses are generously taught, hosted accommodated and fed.
‘Speaking to the Stars’ formed part of a quest for understanding our relationship to concepts of destiny and choice and relatedness to the natural world. Roi Gai Or of the International School of Storytelling  led us into the landscape and over the week we explored a mountaintop near Pan’s Cave, hopped along the rocks by the side of the river at Hermes’ Gorge and visited Poseidon’s realm, diving into the sea.

Stella began by telling us stories from the Pantheon of the Greek Gods. Her voice was sure and I found the stories made sense to me in new ways. As the week unfolded we had a rhythm of meeting in the mornings and taking a siesta after lunch then gathering in the late afternoon to early evenings.  At night time we ate together, home cooked meals at a long table under the stars.

Then we came toward that nervous pointy end of the week where each of the 15 course participants would tell their own autobiographical story. How would this happen? Our teachers kept a steady focus and firmness. The stories that needed to be told would reveal themselves through the activities and exercises. People protested, they had no story, they could not do it, and so on.
In the event we did a final telling that began on the last afternoon at 5pm under a large Prinos tree behind which the huge valley of Amari unfolded in shades of green and mauve. We gathered in a semi circle offering our attention to each teller by turn. Fifteen storytellers and two intervals later we finished at 9pm. You would think it might be exhausting listening to so many stories. It was not. It was exhilarating, extraordinary, ordinary, human and filled with wonder.

I think the mark of a great teacher is a humility that takes things in its stride. Roi Gal-Or has this in spades. Another mark is the reciprocity that takes up learnings from the group. Stella did this with clarity and openness. We remain indebted to them both for gifts shared and exchanged. We drank from the spring, we climbed mountains and river rocks and spoke to the stars.  We were not disappointed.                                                                                                                                                                                       
Julie Perrin August 2013

Julie is telling stories at the Melbourne Writer's Festival at Fed Square next Thursday 29th for the Schools Program.
More information and booking details HERE

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