Myths, moths and marshmallows

With the summer holidays over and the brief lull in group visits that always follows while the Southeast's children all settle back into school and uniformed groups back into their packs and colonies, I am making the most of the opportunity to catch up on some outstanding blog posts from the summer. This one my storytelling event a couple of weeks ago…

Other than watching “Jackanory” on TV, or reading bedtime stories with my Mum and Dad when I was a child (and neither of those things are really quite the same as hearing a story being told), storytelling was not something I was aware of until I went to work in the USA, right back at the start of my career in outdoor education.

Initially employed as a Scuba Diver Instructor at the Catalina Island Marine Institute’s series of “summer camps”, my work permit and contract were extended such that I stayed on as an Outdoor Educator, taking parties of school children staying for week long residential experiences of island ecology, marine ecology, sea kayaking and snorkeling and “astronomy” evening sessions, among other things far to numerous to mention…

It was with CIMI that I broke in my outdoor/environmental educator boots and much of what I learnt there still informs what and how I deliver education at Blashford today. It was during the astronomy sessions that I had my first taste of “real” storytelling, and they really did strike a chord with me. I can still picture that first session I observed as part of my induction – a short 20 minute hike up from camp onto “Lions Head Rock”, Cherry Cove to one side of us, 4th Of July Cove to the other and straight ahead nothing but the guano covered Bird Rock reflecting the moon and starlight – and the Pacific Ocean. Overhead, with little, or no light pollution, nothing but stars and the lead instructor for that evening pointing out the autumn constellations with a powerful dive torch and then telling his audience, and I, the Greek and  Native American creation stories and myths of their making. I was hooked and was soon learning and enjoying telling those same stories myself.

Eventually, upon my return to the UK, I learnt and told new stories, giving performances  at work in various places of outdoor education in both voluntary and paid employment, and in schools or to WI groups  and similar. However, it has always been those first few stories that I heard on Santa Catalina Island that have stayed with me the longest and which I have been able to recall and recount with greatest ease though!

Storytelling still occasionally comes into work and my life, but as time has moved on, not as much as it once did, so it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I decided to dabble in to oracular history again this summer with our “Myths, moths and marshmallows” event.

I shouldn’t have worried: once a storyteller, always a storyteller!

Campfires and stories go together like bread and cheese so our first job was to light the fire:

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Always good when it works first time!

Then my first story, a Native American, Ojibwa, story of “How bat came to be”. Somewhat fitting given I had rescued a Soprano pipistrelle bat from behind the bins in the centre that very afternoon and, covered in cobwebs as it was, taken it down the road to our local Wildlife Hospital for a once-over and subsequent release…

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Then a tale of how Cockerel lost his voice and gained his crow – involving a bit of audience participation (even a good audience can only stay quiet for so long!) and then, because even a good audience can only sit still for so long, we headed back up to the centre to look at and release our moths from the night before and re-set the traps for that night…

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If my audience enjoyed hearing the stories half as much as I enjoyed telling them, a good evening was had by all!

Thank you to my lovely volunteers for watching the fire while we let the moths go and for taking the above pictures of the evening.

And look out for “Myths, moths and marshamallows” next year if this blog has piqued your interest!