Go Lightly into the New Time
by Valerie Tutson, Rhode Island Black Storytellers (RIBS)
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Once upon a time, long long ago—which may have been yesterday, today or tomorrow even—there was a woman (or a man or a person) who loved life and all it had to offer. From the time they were little, the delighted in the simple things: the sound of onions sizzling over the cooking fire, the smell of lilacs in spring, the feeling of hot squishy tar underfoot on a scorching summer day, the sound of grown-ups laughing and talking junk, loud and in hushed tones around the table after dinner, the taste of warm ripe watermelon or freshly baked chocolate jumble cookies… She spent hours lying on her back beside the water, staring at clouds making movies across the bright blue sky.
In all these things, their imagination soared. There was nothing she could not do or be or have. The world—no, the UNIVERSE—was hers and they were free to be/come anything and everything they dreamed or dared.
They had a big heart filled with dreams. Time passed. And as it did, so did life for this one. They became a young adult, then a bonafide adult with choices to make, work to do, responsibilities to fulfill. These things were related to her be/coming what they dreamed of, it is true. But in the process, over time they found it challenging to find time to be still and surrender to the gifts the senses had provided when they were younger and unencumbered.
Who had time to dawdle in the grass, or linger at the table? Who even sat at the table anymore, anyhow? Who had time to savor sweet watermelon while barefoot, or breathe in the scent of daffodils? Time was spent in the car, in transit, busy busy busy.
As life filled up with obligations—even ones they enjoyed—she missed the spacious time of youth, when a summer day was a week all by itself. They were grown now. A mother. And a professional.
And she was far from the only one like this. So many people found themselves living this way, disconnected from the earth—and from the hearts of one another, if we want to tell the truth.
There grew over time a disregard for the earth and all that Mother Earth provided. There was a kind of complacency, a disregard and disdain—and let’s face it, outright violence not only towards the earth but towards other people. Things were getting out of control.
That is when the sickness came.
It was as if Mother Earth herself cried out ( because she did), saying to all of her children: “Enough is enough!”
You have been too distracted, too selfish, too busy, too destructive.
You, who used to know that I provide all that you need for your life and your living: what you need in soil to grow your food, to make shelter and your clothing, water for your sustenance and air so you can breathe.
You were to take care of the gifts I give you, including one another.
You, whose job it is to protect all people, now are killing the people that you serve.
And others turn a blind eye or numb yourselves by abusing gifts that come from me.
“Well,” Mother Earth said, “I say ENOUGH!”
They say that with that Mother Earth broke a part of herself open and released a sickness into the world.
Many got sick. And many died.
And with that sickness and death came fear, real fear around the world.
People stopped—because they had to.
And they huddled inside because they were forced to.
And they wondered: What is it? What has happened? What will happen? What do we do?
And you remember that woman I told you about before?
Well, they were at home with their child, at first frightened because of the illness and then because of the times. They found themselves bored initially without all the distractions, but also face to face with all the demands of this young child present all day, every day.
This was new… and hard. Really hard. But they were face to face in the same space.
And soon they found themselves living truly heart to heart.
They sang together, and when no one was outside they would slip out for walks in all seasons and watch the different flowers growing. They delighted in the birdsong they could hear because there were so few cars around. They planted seeds, watched tomato plants grow and flower and bring forth fruit, and they delighted in the hot fleshy fruit and juice that dribbled when they plucked that tomato right off the vine.
They cooked, they ate, they laughed, they loved. And seasons turned and they experienced each one: winter to spring, spring to summer to fall and then winter again.
Mother Earth noticed as well: the slowing down, the huddling in, the tender care of one another some were finding again.
And after a year and a day (not exactly, but in storytelling terms) the illness seemed to get better under control—not everywhere, but in parts of the world—and there came murmurings of “getting back to the way things were, back to normal.”
When the woman heard that she got anxious. She panicked. Back to normal??? What do you mean? Back to what was? Back to life on the road, back to work work work, back to meeting after meeting, back to food in the car, back to what?
She tossed and turned, anxious about what was to come. She did not want to go back to what had been. This time—this time in the pause had become so sweet, couldn’t she just linger here in this liminal space a while longer?
One morning she awoke with a call that she had no words for: To go to the ocean.
She found her way to the water’s edge, with the sand between her toes, the waves washing her ankles. She stared out at the horizon where it seemed that heaven and earth held hands.
And she heard something, or felt something, or remembered something in her bones and memories from Before the Before—even before she was that child with her toes in soft tar.
Memories that seemed to come from the belly of Mother Earth and the bottom of the ocean.
A knowing that came from the moon and the stars and all the galaxies.
This moment is and isn’t all there is and ever will be
This moment is gone and never will be
You were, you are, you will be
Ever a part of eternity
What will you carry into the new day?
What will you leave behind?
You cannot go lightly into the Time to Come
Without letting some things go….
The woman picked up a smooth stone there at the shore and whispered into it,
“Fear, I let you go.”
She tossed that stone into the sea and picked up another.
“Busy-ness, I release you.”
She tossed it into the sea and picked up another.
All day long she picked up stones, giving them what she no longer needed to carry.
And when she was finished
she returned from the sea
ready to Carry Forward all that was left:
Everything and Nothing in two empty hands and a full heart
whatever the New Day
And so it is….
Rhode Island Black Storytellers (RIBS)
Valerie Tutson graduated from Brown University with a self-designed major in storytelling as a communications art, along with a master’s degree in theatre arts. She also holds an honorary doctorate from Rhode Island College. Since 1991 Valerie has traveled the world telling stories, folktales and personal and historical narratives with an emphasis on black traditions. Valerie is a founding member and director of the Rhode Island Black Storytellers, along with FUNDA FEST: A Celebration of Black Storytelling. She has received numerous awards for her work using storytelling to foster community and has appeared at the National Storytelling Festival and the National Black Storytelling Festival and Conference. Most recently Valerie is passionate about exploring the intersection of storytelling, health and wellbeing.