From the tale of the little grey mouse and the chestnuts, to the cottage whose identity shifted with each owner that inhabited it, the teller of tales of Our times brings you an occasional flavour of life in a small English village.
I have often, over the years in which I tried hard not to put myself in situations where I earned money for doing things I did not, deep down, believe in, questioned the whole concept of ownership. It is an interesting one to play with, living as we do in a system that has evolved from a belief that hoarding for the future is laudable, from the tale of the little red hen who advocates protestant work ethic, to our banking system, we are taught that saving for a rainy day is the only way to go.
What I want to suggest here is that we might just have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. If saving for a rainy day is the only story we believe, where then the space for spontaneity, for life as it is right now unfolding in each and every moment, for making love while the sun shines…as well as hay!
When we become entrenched in a story that tells us ownership is safe, is good, is the way to safeguard our future, we lay down the foundations for a system that is inherently flawed. For when things are set down in stone there is little room for manoeuvre. It creates Us and Them, the Haves and the Have Nots, the Law and the Criminal. It creates Me right, You wrong scenarios and possibilities, and fixes people in to roles that it can be very difficult to step out of.
The little grey mouse is a tale that questions that story.
In Honeysuckle cottage there is a woodburner to end all woodburners, it heats with a passion the most ardent lover would have trouble matching, and lives off wood planted 500 yards along the lane in a small planted woodland burial ground which also serves local people with their fuel, and a place in which to walk and wander. Beside the blazing woodburner, over the winter, sat a wooden bowl full of chestnuts for a-roasting.
The chestnuts were piled high in the wooden bowl and night after night they did not get roasted, in a cottage with cupboards full of food with a village hall down the lane where the inhabitants of the little village sold large bags of their freshly picked locally grown organic produce for 50 pennies a bag, each second day of the working week, and where locally caught fish was taken, and for which homemade jams, chutneys, cakes, pies and loaves were lovingly prepared.
One day the chestnut pile, it looked smaller, and then smaller, and little by little the dweller of honeysuckle cottage began to pay more attention, until one evening she was quite definitely sure, the chestnut pile had indeed shrunk…
Now she was intrigued, and eagerly checked each day to see how many chestnuts were gone. Sometimes it was five, or four, or six, till one day there were only two, and on opening the kitchen door a small grey mouse was seen to be scurrying away in fear from the footfall. Wynnalice felt sad in her heart, the tale was nearly done, that night she knew another chestnut would vanish, and then the last, and then the tale it would be done. And so it was, first one, then the last, chestnut disappeared on consecutive nights, the mouse each time taking only half of what there was, until the supply was finished.
Spring sprung and outside the flowers bloomed and the birds sang and Wynnalice blocked up possible mouseholes knowing that now it was warm enough outside for her little grey visitor to survive. Mouse droppings after all are not the most attractive feature of an English country kitchen she told herself as she swept and cleaned and painted her kitchen with its new spring coat.
All visitors however leave gifts for those with eyes to see…and the little grey mouse had given Wynnalice the gift of a new tale…
A tale of pleasure taken in being given a glimpse of life in the rodent world, a tale of pleasure experienced in seeing a small grey furry being close to…and a different perspective on thievery…
If we buy things, we consider that they are ours, we own them. I do not why we think such a thing. After all we do not keep them, nor need them, after death, though some try hard to give what they think of as theirs to their children, and so perpetuate this stuck state even further. I bought those chestnuts, with money I had earned through the giving of my labour, my time, and my energy, yet they sat, on my hearth, for week after week. A little grey mouse came along, hungry, to feed little ones, to hoard for later, I do not know which, and took those chestnuts and gave me much pleasure and a tale in return.
Whose need was greater? The Owner, or the Thief? Whose need is ever greater? The Owner, or the Thief? What is the difference between the two? One safeguarding for their future, the other living now, in the moment. One the little red hen, the other a little grey mouse…Diversity.
Why then do we call Ownership respectable and Theft a crime? One protecting interests, retaining status, the other, responding to life as it unfolds. Somehow there is an agreement made between the two, that one is bad the other good. I wonder when it is that we will accept that life is a paradox, no such thing as good or bad, just different; different needs at different times. There is a time and a place for stability, and for flexibility too. As long as one owns, the other cannot, unless we increase and increase and increase our occupation of the space the human takes.
That woodburner of mine, it serves a multitude of purposes, heater of space, clearer of space, as 7 years of paperwork saved, taking up space, taking up energy that could be used to create anew, is gradually burnt, creating heat to make way for the new. The new cannot exist as long as we use our energy saving the old, and the skill is in knowing when a stage of transition has arrived.
Reflection, contemplation, space, time, slowing down…where am I now in the map of my journey through this life of mine? Ah yes, there I am, a teller of tales, that’s right…
A trip to the village hall, meeting new neighbours; hearing new tales, over tea and biscuits, after the filling of baskets with food for the week, the filling of hearts with good cheer and companionship. A balanced life.
“Where do you live?”
“Honeysuckle cottage, you know, the whitewashed one down by the lane on the end of a row”
“Ahhh…yes….that’s what they call it now, is it?”
Comes the mysterious response from an elderly lady with a yen for an audience.
“ I know it sometimes goes by the name of Craven” say I, having seen it buried under the ivy that has claimed the old sign
“Aye, Craven…” says she, “and Hanky Panky too!”
The whole table sits up and takes interest.
Craven, I know, I have looked it up; it means ‘surrender’, a lovely name for a home for a storyteller who has let go Giving Out and has started Giving In…
But hanky panky…
“oh yes, twas a doctor” related the elder, with satisfaction at her tale being heard. “Set his mistress up there. Twas she herself who christened it thus”
The table of olders and youngers relax together into giggles of sheer pleasure. How we all love to hear of those who have the courage to be open about the life force of our sexuality.
I smile to myself. From giving in, to sexuality, to the sweet smell of flowering blossoms, sounds like Paradise to me…and I consider renaming the cottage that – to suit my own particular experience of life in a quintessential English country cottage.
To be continued…
And… if you want to come see for yourself, hear some tales of the village of Rattery, amongst others, this Saturday WynnAlice will be tale telling at the village hall – for more info click link http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/352281951470132