Lesson: There is always a lesson.
I love storytelling, I love listening to stories and I love telling stories. Stories are lessons to educate or entertain; stories pass on culture, tradition, history and family information. Stories build and maintain communities. Stories are sacred.
If I had to pick one life lesson acquired from all my time working with First Nation communities, it would be my love and appreciation for the art and gift of storytelling. I was taught that the lessons you gleam from a story depends on where you are in your life, and what lesson you are ready to learn.
Through stories, the listener can decide on a course of action or behavior, something lost on people unfamiliar with the culture. Many times, I have sat there in consultations or industry meetings when someone from the community tells a story and the information for the meeting is in the story. But the listener is looking for information delivered the way they normally receive it, and they miss it. But then again – back to that reception ‘are you ready to learn’ point.
My children have been the recipient of my storytelling for lessons (and entertainment) and many people in my personal and work life, when confronting an issue, get a story from me. I can’t help it, I was taught a valuable tool and like many of my First Nation friends and family, I too often choose to give a story instead of directly telling someone what to do. Go figure it out for yourself.
It’s also important to credit others for the story or ask their permission to repeat unless it is your story. So, I made up my own stories to explain things, as you would have seen from my short story ‘The Prophecy’. My favorite story I made up one morning when the clouds were in the Valley below our house. But before I share my favorite story (condensed version) with you, please know it is a family favorite and every time, no matter where we are, if there are clouds in a river valley it is a Dinosaur Valley Day.
I turned the story into a children’s book at the request of my son, and I gave it to him the day he graduated from high school. Our family stories remain on record.
Dinosaur Valley Day
“MOM!!!!!! Mom, come quick!!!” my son screamed. “MOM!”
“What Jeff? What’s wrong?” I asked my son.
He pointed out the window at the river valley, “The clouds, mom! They fell out of the sky.” The two of us stared out the window in silence at a sea of puffy white clouds. But instead of looking up in the sky, we were looking down at the clouds now below our house in the river valley. Our house sat high on a hill on a bluff over a river valley so wide that the river looks small. But today you couldn’t see anything in the valley, just clouds. And in the sky, just the sun starting to come up on what I thought was a normal, bright September morning.
“What Mom, WHAT? What happened?”
“Don’t be scared”, I told my young son, “this is a special day. But it won’t last long before the clouds go back up to the sky, and we have to act fast. Go get your sister”.
With both kids now with me by the window I started…
“This is a very special place, a place not many people believe is real. But before you kids were born, I saw the clouds come down into the valley and I heard sounds that people are not real.
This really must be Dinosaur Valley, from the bottom of this bluff to the mountains on the other side and along the river in both directions as far as you can see.
You know dinosaurs roamed all over this land and every year people find their fossils. But no fossils have ever been found in this valley. They say this spot was the most favorite place for all the dinosaurs. They say the grasses and plants that grew here could not be found anywhere else. And that the plants were greener than any green, taller than tall and sweeter than sweet. All the dinosaurs, from the tallest brachiosaurus to the fastest birds and scariest triceratops all came here to feed themselves and their babies. They say the dinosaurs grew bigger, stronger and lived longer than anywhere else in the world.
When the dinosaurs disappeared from earth, the ones that lived in Dinosaur Valley did not. The ones here lived a normal life in the Valley and got older until one day the clouds just came down from the sky and whisked them away. They say the dinosaurs still live up in the clouds and for very special reasons and for very special people they come back to earth in the Fall.
The dinosaurs love this place, love their land and care so much that they still take care of it and all that live here. The old stories say that when the clouds come down from the sky and the dinosaurs visit, well that always means something. There is a reason they have come back.”
My kids were still, speechless, trying to figure out if this was real or just another story.
“Weeeeeeehaaaaaawwwwww!” I bellowed, sort of a cross between a whale and tugboat sound. I explained that was the noise they make. And if you listen carefully, you might be able to hear it coming from the clouds.
And with that I stopped talking and walked to the kitchen, leaving them staring out the window.
I could see the looks on their faces, excited, then sceptical, then excited. I could hear them quietly talking about running down to the bluff and into the valley to check this out. But not sure if it was a tall tale or real and either way what would happen if they saw a dinosaur.
From the kitchen I suggested they best have some breakfast and get dressed. After breakfast, while in their rooms I swore I heard something, from the valley beneath the clouds… almost like ‘Weeeehaaaaaawwwwww!’
Calling to the kids I yelled… “did anyone else hear that?” Both kids ran back to the kitchen as fast as their legs would carry them.
“I packed a lunch”, I said. I thought it looked like a nice day to do some exploring in the valley.