Once upon a time…
That’s how our stories begin.
The tales we tell are of dragons and maidens and heroes,
of princes and princesses, of slippers, wolves and beanstalks.
These serve us well: grim tales to thrill the young, epic tales to enchant the old,
in which witches bewitch, elves fight battles (or mend small shoes)
and rings are uncovered and wonderlands discovered.
Journeys begin and end, wardrobe doors open and close,
treasure is lost and found, fellowships are forged and broken,
crimes are solved by the Secret and the Famous and by little grey cells
and there’s always time for Elevenses –
with condensed milk and honey for one bear and cocoa and buns for another.
But still the magic fades… and much-loved tales shrink back into the shadowlands of our minds.
But the best stories have a beginning that never stops beginning.
For story-telling is a journey – a pilgrimage into hopes and dreams.
I chanced upon the Storyteller
when I was wandering, but not lost.
Who could he be, this King of the Golden Hall,
this oasis in the Desert Place?
A man of mystery: enigmatic and eccentric, unknown yet so familiar,
a dream to some – a nightmare to others.
I gazed at his face and was perplexed…
At first I saw something stern, severe and sad written upon it;a judge knowing that sentence must be passed,
yet in mercy hesitant to deliver the final word.
But look again – and there was compassion, love, comfort…
a wisdom from beyond the dawn of time, whispering omnipotence.
He had a look that drew me in as he began to speak:
“Those who have ears, let them hear,” he said.
He raised his hand, a sign of the teacher, and I settled to listen.
I was transfixed. Sometimes baffled, sometimes amused,
sometimes challenged, sometimes awestruck,
as the Storyteller spoke of seeds and weeds, of brothers and mothers,
of yeast and feasts, of jars and stars, of rules and fools,
of wine and signs, of sharing and caring.
The Storyteller stooped and from the ground picked up a leaf.
Seated on a throne of living, verdant leaves, he held up this
which seemed so small, so insignificant, in the autumn of its life.
He spoke – and I sat enrapt as I heard its story.
Its colours and hues were shades of its being;
the blade a shape of things that were and could be;
its veins the paths and byways of roads well-travelled and routes regretted.
He spoke of its journeys, its experiences, its failures, its successes,
its joys and sorrows, its doubts, its moments of busyness and calm,
its moments of faith and of revelation and of discovery and growth.
The leaf had fallen, but was now singled out, picked up
and connected to the Storyteller as he held it.
And as I watched it was as if the leaf was transformed:
as the Storyteller continued his tale, I recognised myself in aspects of that leaf.
The story continued and time passed…
Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years?
A lifetime? Millennia? I knew not…
Yet in time I began to consider my story too –
my own life journey, its twists and turns –
Yet surely a life like any other?
But with the Divine Storyteller
even the title page is exciting –
Once upon a time becomes what happens now and next.
Where each adventure is better than the one before.
Where every story is true and unique
and the next page is always blank – so your story
is developed and inspired in the company of the Great Storyteller.
And stories no longer read like mere stories,
just written words on an inconsequential and brittle page.
But now they are real.
Now they have life.
Now they are experienced.
Now they are understood.
Now they truly are, “Happy Ever After.”
The Storyteller told of many things –
if every one of them were written down, I suppose
that even the whole world would not have room
for the books that would be written.
At last, the teller of all our stories,
the one who sat upon the throne of life,
told me HIS story – and my heart burned within me.
And then he told me my story – and my heart leapt.
For – wonderfully and gloriously –
they were the same.
© David Guest, July 2015
Inspired during a Launde Abbey Retreat by The Teller of All Our Stories painting by Michael Cook.