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Soul food

Stories that shape us

By Carolyn Pogue

In writing classes, I encourage students to pay attention to the stories that shape us. I hope this counsel helps them; I believe it helps me. It reminds me to read between the lines of my own life stories and to soften my focus when I want to learn from ancient wisdom. It helps me look at life — and how it’s reported in the media — with a wide-angle lens. Just as we become the food we put into our bodies, we become the stories we feed our spirits.

Lent has begun, and I’ve chosen three books accompany me on this 40-day soul journey. I Am Listening: Daily Devotions for Lent, edited by Betty Lynn Schwab, is a collection of essays by various writers. My husband and I read it together in the morning and then write free-fall to explore our reactions.

The second is The Long View: An Elderwoman’s Book of Wisdom by Donna Sinclair. I’ve mentioned this book earlier; Donna’s heart is on each page.

And finally, there’s Spider Woman’s Web: Traditional Native American Tales About Women’s Power by Susan Hazen-Hammond. Men shouldn’t let the title dissuade them from reading this; everyone can benefit from these 25 ancient stories that originated on Turtle Island. Hazen-Hammond offers food for thought with this simple truth: “Through the centuries, while their counterparts in Europe grew up on stories that depicted women as weak, helpless, sinister, or untrustworthy, Native American women grew up hearing tales about the powers and strengths of women . . . stories of woman as the divine creator, woman as a supernatural power, woman as a force of transformation in the universe.”

Transformation is what we’re all about during this season of Lent. At the end, we’ll celebrate Easter — new life, hope, resurrection. But before that day, we walk this Lenten desert and arrive at Good Friday, the day the Romans killed Jesus. On that day, I will stand inside the story with Mary, his mother and the other women and men who loved him. And we will watch him die.

For me, though, Good Friday is not only about Jesus being killed on a cross 2,000 years ago. All our sons and daughters who die for justice are up there, too: the reporters who were killed in Syria last week; the children who lack good food right here in Canada; Mother Earth poisoned and raped because we love convenience.

For this, I need good story companions. Soul food.

Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
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