A Good Story is a Gift

Without fail, my inspiration for writing each week has come from my most immediate communications or experiences. This week Lauren Gonzalez shared with me that she’d watched a Great Blue Heron stalking in the grass. Much to her surprise she saw it snap a baby woodchuck up and swallow it down with one gulp. Despite the regret she felt for the woodchuck, she recognized Nature’s order at work. Lauren’s story reminded me of another tale involving a Great Blue Heron, which I’m going to share with you this week.

We’re living in a time of monumental change. Whatever is lacking integrity will crumble; it can no longer stand. We usually associate honesty with integrity, but it also refers to the ability to withstand the forces of pressure and movement. While people living in areas of volcanic activity and earthquakes are experiencing their physical world crumbling around them, others have had to let go of their work or businesses, homes and personal relationships.

Not one of us can say with any certainty what the world will look like tomorrow.  What we can do is cultivate faith and be a good witness to what is playing out in our own lives, especially. To resist the changes we’re called upon to make, only creates more pain. To rail against apparent injustices invests energy in the very thing we’d like to eliminate. And we cannot ever know all the reasons why. All we can do, is to do the thing that is before us, to the best of our ability.

A good story gives us a higher place from which to view our personal challenges.  I was blessed to receive such a gift while  driving storyteller, Brian Ellis Fox, to the airport after being in attendance at the Maine Healing Arts Festival. He had no way of knowing just how personal and dead-on this particular story was for me. I am hoping that readers will be helped and inspired by the broader message it carries. I sense there may be some who find this story goes straight to the heart of their present challenge to make changes.

In Search of His Own True Nature

as told to Joanne Pinney by Brian Ellis Fox on Labor Day 1995

There was a good medicine woman who was well respected and loved and of much help to the people of her village.  She had a special gift for helping husbands and wives heal their troubled spirits.  She didn’t use any magic to do this.  People would come to her with their complaints and with their troubles.  She would listen.  She did not say “You must do this or you must do that”.   When the person returned to their home, they would find that a solution to their difficulty had presented, seemingly all in of itself.

Now, the medicine woman had much success with other couples troubles, but she was very sad at the rift that had grown between herself and her husband.  She did not know what to do about it and the rift continued to grow.

One day her husband came to her and said, “Beloved wife, I am very sad.  I do not know my own true nature and I must go on a quest to seek it.”

She said, “Beloved husband, that is what you must do.  I am very sad also, that you do not know your own true nature.”  And she helped her husband with his preparations for his quest.  She chewed the hide to make his moccasins for his vision quest.  She sewed for her beloved, a beautiful new shirt and pants.  She helped him make the canoe ready and every day as they prepared, she prayed that her husband may find his own true nature.

When preparations were done, the two went up river in the canoe together.  Her husband chose a place high above, overlooking the river, to fast and pray and wait for the vision of his own true nature.  He bid her goodbye and asked that she return in 3 days.  “Then I will know my own true nature,” he said.

The medicine woman paddled the canoe home alone and with every pull of the paddle she prayed that her beloved would receive the gift of the vision of his own true nature.

On the morning of the third day the medicine woman awoke eagerly.  She sang a song as she prepared special herbal tea and gruel that she would bring to her husband.  “This is the day my beloved returns to me, this is the day he returns to me with his own true nature…”

She paddled the canoe with joy, to the place where she’d left her husband.  She could see him high on the cliff, as she rounded the bend.  She called up to him, “Beloved husband I have come with tea and gruel to break your fast.  I have come to celebrate your own true nature and take you home!”

As she got closer she could see her husband’s sad face.  “Wife, I have not received a vision.  I must stay until I know my own true vision.  Please come back in three days,”  he said.

The wise medicine woman understood the importance of her beloved’s quest.  She was sad that he would not be returning with her today, but she hid how she felt.  “Beloved husband of mine, you are strong, you are brave.  I know you will receive a vision of your own true nature soon.  I will return for you in three days.”

So she paddled the canoe back to the village, a little slower, than she had set out.  And she prayed with every pull, “May my beloved husband receive the gift of vision of his own true nature.”

Three days passed slowly, while the medicine woman went about her business,  helping with sick babies, mending wounds and listening to her people’s troubles.  In quiet times, she continued to pray to Great Spirit on behalf of her husband’s quest to know his own true nature.

On the morning of the sixth day of her husband’s quest, the medicine woman again prepared the special tea and gruel to break her husband’s fast. Her mind went to the places that she and her husband might visit when he returned and of the things they would do together, when he was no longer searching for his own true nature.  She paddled very fast to get the place where she’d left him.  Her heart felt light as she rounded the bend and saw her beloved sitting cross-legged on the cliff above her.

She called to him, “Ho, beloved husband, I’ve come to bring you home!  I’ve brought you tea and gruel to break your fast.  Will you come down now?”

“Oh, beloved wife, I thank you very much, for you have come a long way three times on my behalf and I thank you very much for the tea and gruel.  But I must stay.  I have not received a vision of my own true nature yet.  I must stay until I know,” he said.

She said back to him, for she loved him very much and knew the importance of his quest, “Yes, I will go husband, and I will pray and fast with you, that you receive a vision of your own true nature and I will return in three more days to take you home.”  And she smiled up at him.

Once again, the medicine woman paddled the canoe home, alone.  She prayed fervently to Great Spirit on behalf of her husband.  And when she returned to the village she fasted also and sat in prayer for three days.

It had now been nine days, since her husband began his vision quest.  She again prepared the tea and gruel and had some herself to break her fast and give her energy for the trip up river.  She had the strength of a man as she paddled the canoe, and as she paddled she sang a song of victory, knowing that after nine days her husband would surely have received a vision, that he would know his own true self and be ready to return to her and their village.

As she rounded the bend in the river, the medicine woman looked at the spot where her husband had been sitting.  He wasn’t there.  She beached the canoe and climbed swiftly to the top of the cliff.  There were the moccasins and the shirt and pants she’d made him for his quest, but where was he?  She scanned the horizon in all directions and she called to her beloved.  He didn’t answer, he didn’t come.

Her heart was heavy.  Her husband was gone.  The medicine woman paddled the canoe home, crying as she still prayed that her husband would know his own true nature.   Her arms ached, her back ached and her heart ached.

A dark shadow covered the medicine woman and the canoe and she heard “Squa-awk!  Squa-awk!  Squa-awk!  She looked up and saw a Great Blue Heron flying low directly above her.  She shivered with recognition and thanked Great Spirit, knowing that it was her beloved husband, that he had at last found his own true nature!

It often takes a passage of time for us to know the results of the choices we made when at the crossroads of our lives. I sent this story to my ex-husband on Friday, wishing him a happy birthday. It will be sixteen years since our divorce come this May. His short response affirmed that it was right timing for this story to be shared. He said, “Yes, we are both in a better place now.”

If you want to see the signposts at the crossroads of your life, don’t forget to

Shine your Light!


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Coming soon to Light Heart Retreat