Madelyn Soldner Sullivan
Story as Ritual
A long time ago, Not all that far From here....
There once lived a young maiden in the far up mountains of the blue sky country. She spent her days wandering the forest streams and riding her old white horse in the summers. And in the winters she could be found speeding down hills on a sleigh and skiing to huts with her friends. As the seasons cycled, and the waters froze and thawed, froze and thawed again, she grew older and was carried down the melting tributaries from high up in the mountains to edge of the Eastern shores.
As the mountains grew smaller and smaller, the rivers grew wider and wider, until finally she reached the big expanse of a salty blue ocean where the sun is born each day. By the ocean of the Atlantic she learned the ways of those who lived there. It was not an easy task. She struggled through dark winters that forced her to look for the light inside her instead of the light around her that always left each winter. She met many people who helped to steer her towards her light. She learned from a boat builder the ways of tools, she learned from a farmer the ways of the land, she learned from a medicine maker the ways of the plants, and she learned from a tracker the ways of the wild. She learned to sharpen her pen and refine her paint brush to communicate the colors of the world through her hands. She learned the ways of the ocean, the rhythm of the tides, the timing of the storms and how to ride cold, pounding, rumbling swells in the icy winters.
On her journey out of the darkness of the East she sought to connect the light within her to the world around her. To do this she had to remove the layers protecting her from feeling herself in relation to the world. First, she had to find solid ground beneath her feet. And so she slowly began to learn to make her own sandals in the ways of the first peoples of the Earth and the ancient running tribe the Raramuri. When she ran in the woods in her sandals that molded to her feet, she found that they allowed her to feel the ground beneath her every footfall. She no longer felt separate from the animals and trees, but soundlessly flowed through the forest as a part of it.
Many years passed in which the young girl became a young woman, and her sandals took her to many places. As far away as the shores of a lush green island, a great distance from her home once again, but now to the West—where the sun went to die each day, where the Gods and Goddesses of the people still lived in the mountains and the valleys, the stars and the sea. It was on this island that she lost her sandals. It was here in the sand and on the crumbling volcanic slopes that she lost her footing and fell into a darkness like none she had ever known. A darkness that threatened to swallow her whole. This was the biggest test yet.
In her darkest time, as she fell deeper and deeper, her family came to her aide and brought her back to the far up mountains of the blue sky country of her childhood. Although she had learned and acquired some wisdom over her years, she had much to learn from the darkness that enveloped her. It was then that she met a wise woman whose hair was as white and fluffy as the cottonwood seeds that fell each spring making it look like snow was falling in the blue spring sky. This woman lived with the owls at the edge of a field far from town and she had learned to be in the darkness with the skill and grace of the owls who hunted and flew in the dark each night.
As the wise woman with the cottonwood hair helped the young woman give up her struggle against the vastness of the void that wouldn’t lift, she began to listen. And as she listened, she received many gifts from what at first felt like a big empty nothing-ness. The gifts of stillness, surrender and receiving— and many more. These were all very foreign to her, and it took her many years to begin to speak this new language—the language of darkness. And she found that most people around her didn’t speak or understand it very well either. It was difficult to practice when others couldn’t understand, but she always had the wise woman with cottonwood hair. And she found that the language of darkness was teaching her how to trust herself and this new way of speaking and listening. She found she was able to stand alone in her truth even when others didn’t believe or understand her.
She learned to listen for her intuition before making a plan. She learned to trust her body's wisdom before her thoughts' impulses. She learned to rest and receive. She learned to grieve for what she loved. She found beauty in her pain and suffering. She was astonished that as she let the darkness in, that her life became more colorful and vivid, instead of overtaking all that she once knew as she had feared it might do. The darkness added so much to her life that she vowed to carry the mantle of darkness she had been given with its beautiful night language with her wherever she went.
And just as the wise woman with cottonwood hair had shared so much with her, she too wanted to share the gifts she had received with others. She saw that she was not the only one longing for re-connection to the ground beneath their feet. She knew that others were hungry to learning from the darkness. She began to offer her mantle of darkness for others to take refuge in, and to show and learn with them the night language she so loved. And so it was that she embarked on her journey as a story teller and healer, weaving meaning and ritual into all of her tasks with the wisdom and the language of darkness as her guide. Through sandal making and song, story telling and painting, writing and teaching she cast sacred circles for people to step into to take them out of ordinary time and space, telling ancient stories to connect people back with their inner creativity; to their inner ground, to befriend the darkness within and without.
And in these pages you will read of her quest as she travels farther and farther, and nearer and nearer on the spiral path.
It is said that to this very day she can be found by the edge waters of the Great Pacific singing on her ukulele by the shore. Or you may see her walking in a mountain meadow high above the trees in the far up mountains of the blue sky country tending to plants as the dusk settles into twilight.