“To be a person is to have a story to tell.” —Isak Dinesen
A Story for a Granddaughter
When my children were growing up, I didn’t tell them stories about my childhood because I thought I didn’t have any happy ones, mostly because I thought no one loved me. Once I started looking at things through adult eyes, I realized how wrong I had been. But by then, my children were grown, living in far-away-places, and leading busy lives.
Through this blog, however, my children and grandchildren have learned many things about me they didn’t know, especially when a bit of memoir is thrown into the writing mix. Writing these stories down has also helped me understand myself better. It’s been one of the unexpected benefits of blogging.
So the other day, when I was with my oldest granddaughter, Shanna, and the subject of animal totems came up, I told her how the magpie became my totem. Afterwards, she asked me to write the story down for her. I said I would, and so here it.
It happened when I was living in Twin Falls, Idaho, and working as regional editor for the Times-News. It was a time in the early 1980s, after my divorce when all my children had left home, and I had moved to this small city where I didn’t know a soul.
I made friends easily, but many of the women I liked best turned out to be New Agers, which is how this non-believing, stick-to-the-facts journalist got invited to attend a “Back to the Goddess” workshop.
The get-together was held beside the Snake River Canyon Gorge, near where Evil Knievel attempted his infamous motorcycle jump. The scenery was fantastic, as were the day’s activities. First, we walked down the canyon, getting rid of all the excess baggage we were carrying in our souls as we descended. On our hike back up the gorge, we picked up all the positive things we wanted in our lives.
I don’t recall what I threw away, or what I picked up, only that the experience was enriching. What I remember vividly, however, is what happened that starry Van Gogh night, as we sat beside the canyon around a campfire.
The workshop leader held a talking stick, and said when it came into our hands, we were to name our animal totem. I had never heard of such a thing, and decided all I could do was say I didn’t have one and pass the stick to the next person.
As the stick came around the circle, the women named many impressive totems: lion, wolf, beaver, elephant, golden eagle among them as I recall. When the stick, which I had planned to pass on, touched my hand, the word magpie came out of my mouth without missing a beat. I then went on to explain why this nuisance bird, a member of the crow family, was my totem.
It’s loud and raucous, like this native Texan. It’s also intelligent and playful, and its white and iridescently black feathers, represent a broad mindset of thinking, all traits that I believe I possess. I was still in a state of shock when I quickly passed the talking stick to the next person.
And that my dear granddaughter is how I got my animal totem, a bird that came into my life 15 years before I became a passionate birdwatcher.
Bean Pat: Wayward Spirit http://tinyurl.com/zoa23t7 Writing on the Beach. I know how this feels.