Transition Tales at Emerson College

The twin specters of climate change and peak oil are offering us an “open moment.”  In the face of an unknowable future, what stories will we tell to open a way forward?  This was the question that seventeen storytellers from six different countries gathered at Emerson College to explore under the gentle guidance of Ashley Ramsden.  I was lucky enough to be one of these tellers.

For me, it was all about the lambs.  You see, the workshop fell smack dab in the middle of lambing season and there was an ever-growing number of frolicking, friendly, little balls of fluff to visit at the neighbouring farm each day.  And so each day I visited them.

As I learned through the week, what this open moment calls for is not more leafing through   books to find “environmentally-themed” stories.  It calls for people to speak through connection, particularly through the connection of love for the Earth and her inhabitants.  We spent as much time working on connecting and re-connecting to ourselves, each other, and the beautiful environment of Emerson College as we did on the craft of story-telling.  We explored stories through movement, song, service, touch, attention, time, gift-giving and praise.  We learned to listen closely to the world around us so that the world might speak through us.

It was an ambitious and wide-ranging week.  Ashley invited a great variety of guests into the Storytelling Hut: the Transition Movement, Rumi, elementals, Shakespeare, Pluto, Neptune, Uranus, Goethe, the Brothers Grimm, South African praise singing, Fritjof Capra, Incan prayers, fish and chips, Michael Leunig, and a number of anonymous tellers of traditional tales.  The experience was often challenging, occasionally depressing (we were working in the shadow of climate change after all) but overall incredibly inspiring.  It was also way too short.  But it was long enough to get me hooked.  So maybe that was the plan all along.  Now I just have to figure out how to get back to the School of Storytelling for some more of its strong medicine.


The official description of the Transition Tales course can be found on the Emerson College website

The School of Storytelling also has its own site, as does Ashley Ramsden.

I’ve also included links to Tablehurst Farm and The Transition Movement

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I'm a writer, a researcher and a storyteller.

2 thoughts on “Transition Tales at Emerson College

  1. Also, working as an environmentalist (although my boss might not label me that way) I have found this winter, especially, to be dark and difficult. I really don’t know how a person can go on receiving this degree of bad news over and over again, while engaging with politicians that refuse to take action. It has made me stressed-out and ill.

    I struggle to make my own story of positive change and expose myself to the good news stories that are all around us. Thinking about my tire house somewhere in the future, my locally made yurt that provides an all season get-away and my new veggie garden this summer, keeps it all real… or perhaps not so real, but more bare-able.

    I love finding those stories of people rising out of hopelessness and building something extraordinary. Will Allen has a very cool story. He’s founder of Growing Power in Milwaukee and has created an urban farm with a greenhouse, fish farm and open-air vegetable plots. He grows everything for a balance diet and teaches young people in the community how to be urban farmers. Good-bye KFC and Burger King.

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