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

Update on the Transition Scotland Survey

Unfortunately, the response rate on the survey of the use of storytelling in Scottish transition initiatives was extremely low:  Only one person submitted a completed survey.  However, this person did report that their initiative had used storytelling.  Specifically she wrote that they had engaged in

“Collecting and sharing oral histories (recording stories told by elders about what their lives were like in the past)”

I’m not sure whether the low response rate means that Scottish initiatives are not yet using storytelling and so did not respond, or if having the survey included at the bottom of the Transition Scotland newsletter meant that people did not see it.  So I cannot come to any conclusions.  I still believe that storytelling is an important tool for changing culture towards greater sustainability.

Storylistening Podcasts Launched

three treesI have finally posted my first two podcasts: a two-part interview with French storyteller Fiona MacLeod.

I caught up with Fiona MacLeod, a storyteller from Brittany,  France, at the Scottish Storytelling Centre where she was storyteller in residence for the month of February. While in Scotland she facilitated a workshop on Contemplation, Story and Pathways to Peace as part of the Edinburgh Festival of Middle Eastern Spirituality and Peace.  In the first part of the interview she shares her thoughts and experiences in working with stories in this manner.  In the second part of the interview she talks more about storytelling and the environment, particularly rocks, trees and water.  She also describes the annual week-long workshop she facilitates in France on storytelling and the environment.  I hope you find the interview as useful and inspiring as I did.

Fiona MacLeod: Stories as Pathways to Peace (podcast)

Fiona MacLeod: Trees, Stones and Water (podcast)