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What Calls Out

I walked down a favorite forest road and collected cans and shotgun shells on my way back, and I thought of the story of Mother Holle.

In the realm of Mother Holle, apple trees cry out to the visitor, "shake us, shake us, we are all of us ripe!" And loaves browning in the oven shout, "take us out, take us out, or we shall be burnt!"

So we shake the tree and the apples fall and the branches spring back up. We set the hot loaves aside to cool and the smell of fresh bread wafts in all directions. And when we reach Mother Holle's home, we come in when she invites us. We help sweep the floor and cook the food, and shake out her down comforter to make it snow in the land above, where people have forgotten that the whole world speaks to them.

"Part of the function of human beings is to return prana, chi, akasha to the universe... Life force is what carries all of our experiences , our hard-earned wisdom, and all records of our existence here back to the akashics, to our higher self."
-Teri Uktena

When you're ready to leave Mother Holle and go back to the world you came from, she'll offer you a gift: go out to the chicken coop and collect as many eggs as you like-- but any eggs that say, "Take me!," leave. Any eggs that say, "Don't take me!," take.

When you go to the henhouse you'll find that half of the eggs are covered in gold and jewels. Those are the ones crying, "Take me!" The rest, the ones saying, "Don't take me!," are plain, plain, plain.

But the apples were plain, and the bread was plain. The beer cans and shotgun shells were plain, too.

First, we learn to hear and heed the calls: the tale of Mother Holle has two visitors, two sisters, one who helps and one who does not, saying, "What is it to me if your branches are bent to the ground? What concern is it of mine if bread burns to ash?"

But then, when it's time to go home, to rise, to return to a world that we don't hear so clearly, we learn, maybe, to know. To discern. Because everything calls out -- we can hear it now.

The second sister loads her apron full of bejeweled eggs. As Mother Holle instructs, once she is on the path home she tosses them, one after another, over her shoulder where they crack open and reveal their rewards: snakes and wolves and frogs and all things dark and terrifying, which chase her, heart pounding, to her door.

The first sister chooses the plain eggs, the ones who say, "Don't take me," the ones her teacher tells her to take. When she throws them over her shoulder, gold and silver, rubies and emeralds and diamonds spill out. Fragrant flowers bloom, birds lift into the sky.

It seems like the selfish girl was punished. That she should have trusted Mother Holle. That she shouldn't have left the branches to break or the bread to burn.

But I wonder-- what if each of them got what they needed? What if each received a true treasure?

The "good" sister had had a hard life before visiting Mother Holle. Like Cinderella she had no power, and, it seems, no sense of her own value, saying yes, yes, yes to every demand. Then she returned home with both the experience of her help being rewarded (and the recipients of that help being worthy and safe), as well as literal currency and all the agency that brings. If Mother Holle had simply sent her home with a sack of gold, wouldn't she have handed it over to her abusive step family? What food would that have been?

And if Mother Holle had cast snakes and toads at the "bad" sister, she would have only been the villain.

What are we meant to pick up? What speaks to us truthfully -- and what knows itself we'll enough to do so?

Were the dazzling eggs lying? Were the plain eggs just as deceitful? Or do we only ever know what we know, believe what we believe? (Why did the eggs long to be chosen or not chosen? What if this story was about them, and not about girls, good or bad, at all? What if this story is really about apples and apple trees, bread and brick ovens? What if it's really about an old woman looking for a little companionship and help around the house? What if, what if, what if?)

What if the darkness that falls out when something cracks open is the treasure? What if the cracking open, the transformation to ash, the pounding heart is the gift?

What if the cans and the spent shells and the beautiful leaves and the fallen pinecones all are always calling out to us, "See me, touch me, help me become whatever's next"?

What happens when we do?

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