Lyrebirds

By Donna Jacobs Sife

Black cockatoos are the bringers of good news. Since their arrival in
my neighbourhood the last few years, I have known that. Several months
ago, I was watching them in the tree in my garden, squawking and fussing
in their raucous, bold way - and I asked for a sign. I'm greedy like
that - not enough to have black cockatoos choose my tree, I wanted more.

It was then that I heard a noise across the road, which edges the
National Park - and there they were. Two lyrebirds - bobbing and
scatching their dance, singing their songs. I was thrilled to the bone
and stood on tiptoe, peeking through branches to keep them in sight.
It was deeply significant, although I could not tell you why. Not
then.

The following day I was performing at International House, through
Sydney university. Penelope Starr told a story too, an Aborignal tale
about the Lyrebird. It is then that I learnt that the Lyrebird is the
mythological sign for - the storyteller.

The visit of the lyrebirds was transforming, as such visits so often
are. They heralded a shift in my work as a storyteller. Once I used
the dove as my totem, my logo - because I was primarily a Jewish
storyteller who told other stories too. Now my totem is the Lyrebird,
and I dare to tell stories that spill over the edges, cannot be
contained within cupped hands. Big and mythic stories that leave you
moved and stirred and altered. Not instant gratification like you get
from the sweet, wise stories and legends I still enjoy, but stories
that continue long after they have been told.

As a result of this shift, my other work has changed too. I give
workshops that relate to the work of story within the psyche. I try to
explore the unconscious, access dream, allow the unspoken to speak, but
always from the story, through the story, around the story. . The
bigger the story, the further it can travel. I feel very reticent to
impose my self upon this work. I never offer interpretation, only the
possibility for others to feel their relationship with the story
themselves.

This focus became more important to me after I attended a few seminars
on different myths. I went to hear an expert speak on Psyche and Eros,
and heard some very clever connections and interpretations. However, I
was shocked that I never actually heard the story. The story was not
told, just spoken about - and this is not unusual, it is the way it is
often approached.
So much thinking! So much talk! And the story is lost.

My tendency is to tell the story as often as it needs to be told. In a
workshop I may tell it three times or more if the participants require
to hear it again. I want them to hear it from a place of emptiness,
where the story enters them unimpeded by thought or association - just
through the body. Anne Wilson Schaeff has said that understanding will
never set us free - only feeling.

My sweetest example of this is a memory of Alice, three years old,
listening with wide eyes as I told her the story of little Red Riding
Hood. When I got to the part where the wolf, licking his lips says "All
the better to EAT YOU UP!" I put my heart into it, and growled a fierce
growl. Alice jumped and burst into tears, and I thought to myself "Uh
oh, I overdid it!" And Alice, through her tears and fear, looked at me
and finally managed to say "AGAIN!"
I must have repeated that part of the story ten times that day.... each
time with that dreadful growl, each time to her tears, and each time to
the cry "again!" Her tears became laughter, her fright turned from
having control, to being controlled....... and never once did Alice have
to be told that she was coming to terms with her fear by hearing this
story. Never did she have to know that the wolf may represent the
shadow, the dark, the hunger..........
She just knew that she had to hear it again and again.

I am a storyteller. I understand that I must interact with the stories
that I tell on a deep, profound level. I think I need to understand the
stories I tell, and also know why it is I choose to tell it. But it is
not my job to tell you that. I must simply honour the story by telling
it as truly as I can, with heart and soul and understanding..... what
you do with that story has nothing to do with me.

Keep your eye open for black cockatoos - they bring good news, and
leave stories all around - to be blown by the wind, and to seed in the
earth.