Coming Home to Story: An Interview with Lisa Schneidau
In the first of a new series of Story Conversations, last week I met with storyteller and ecologist Lisa Schneidau, to hear a story about a blackbird. With and around the story, Lisa and I talked about folklore, ecology, imagination versus anthropomorphism and the nature of making a home.
It is very difficult, in today's increasingly urgent world, to justify a space for luxurious, awe-struck, fantastic imagination. It is difficult, as we become more and more aware of the toxic, anthropocentric warping of our Western viewpoint, to comprehend how our old tales, in which it is blissfully easy to have a conversation with an obliging animal, can have anything of depth to say to the profound divide between us and the wild world; both in terms of respecting its otherness and acknowledging the enormity of our destruction of it. And yet we still need story, and we still have a sense that holding a space for wonder can make a difference.
I was delighted to have a chance to discuss all this with Lisa, who, as an ecologist and storyteller, works, as it were, on both sides of the conversation. Lisa tells stories across the South West, to children and adults, in schools, museums, festivals and nature reserves. She also works with the Devon Wildlife Trust, managing and developing landscape scale conservation programmes in north Devon. She's written two wonderful books exploring the wild stories of the British Isles, Botanical Folk Tales, and Woodland Folk Tales, which will be out in September.
When we got together, Lisa told me about the importance, for her, of holding a space for heart in the midst of science. We discussed the possibility of seeing animals within the story as characters, rather than useful objects. We talked of Ragnarok, of the wisdom of an ancient Russian horse, and of blackbirds on the edge of the world.
Here's our conversation. I hope you enjoy it.
The Story Conversations will continue next month, when I am so excited to welcome Dr Tamara Pizzoli, author of The Ghanian Goldilocks, Tallulah the Tooth Fairy CEO, The Empress's New Clothes, and many other books celebrating diversity, joy and story. She is also the founder of the award-winning publishing house The English School House. If you have any questions you'd like to ask Dr Pizzoli about her work, fairy tale and storytelling today, send them here and I'll do my best to bring them into the conversation.
More soon, beloveds, and meanwhile, stay safe.