I have close to no idea how I will ever be able to encompass this book in a measly review on my blog, but I am going to attempt it nonetheless.
For me, this book was everything I was searching for in a book during the time of my life when I found it.
If you read any other posts on this blog, you know I’ve been going through a more spiritually focused journey for a while now and really struggling with a fair majority of things in my life. I’ve felt powerless and afraid of the world and all it’s experiences for a while, years if I’m being honest. As I’ve said before – I’m not quite sure exactly how or why it happened to me and not other people in my life, but little by little it did. I’ve searched and searched for things that would bring me answers as to why things suddenly came to a crashing halt in my world and nothing has left me satisfied.
Until I read this book.
Sharon Blackie, the amazing author that she is, has detailed what I believe to be one of the most essential books for all women to read in their lifetimes. Honestly, I think men would benefit from reading it as well at this point, but as I am only able to write from my own experience, I can only speak to the ways that it moved me as a woman.
Blackie is a storyteller focused on mythology and psychology, as she continually reminds us throughout her written work. She feels like a version of myself simply born in a different time and place, but with the same motivations to tell stories that affect great change on a personal and societal level that I possess in my current form. She expertly weaves a variety of landscape-focused folklore stories within the telling of her own life experiences as she details the ways in which she travelled and grew into the author who was able to write this book for others to read. She includes the intimate details of her struggles with her career and desires for something “more” in life, her struggles in marriage, and her struggles within her own self. So many of the topics I love to read about in fantasy stories, but laid out before me with the beauty and impact that only raw honesty and vulnerability can convey.
I have to admit, I am a sucker for real people telling me their real stories. I love being an audience for anyone to verbalize their lived experiences and pass on the knowledge they gained. I am a perpetual student of life in that regard, and I know that much about myself will never change. I am always open to the stories of another person. (Which must be why complete strangers have told me their entire life stories upon meeting me, but that’s for another blog entry.)
As well as giving her audience her own life experience, Blackie provides the framework for the Eco-Heroine’s Journey, a story structure which I believe is greatly lacking in today’s storytelling knowledge base. However, with stories like Moana being gifted to audiences across the globe, I believe the lack of Heroine’s Journey stories is on it’s way out, and fast.
This journey is similar to the traditional Hero’s Journey described by mythologist Joseph Campbell, but it details the ways in which a woman’s journey is specifically different from a man’s. My favorite aspect of this “new” journey that Blackie shares with us is that she is sure to describe, in detail, that it is not better or worse than a man’s journey, but truly just different. She describes the ways in which we as women are in tune with nature, with the Earth itself, and with all living creatures that share this space with us.
Blackie also shares that this Heroine’s Journey is not so new, and in actuality has been with us for as long as stories have existed. She shares the stories she knows and loves and the ways in which they demonstrate the various aspects and chapters of the Eco-Heroine’s Journey. How these stories, seemingly long forgotten, have been apart of our shared history for much longer than many of us were made aware during our study of mythology and literature.
Without going over the top in details and telling you every section I highlighted and marked in this book (because there were many), I hope to leave you with the impression that his book truly is life changing. While it is a somewhat dense read – a bit more academic language than your average book – this book truly changed the way in which I operate in the world. And though there are things I have forgotten and let slip from my awareness, I have this book in my posession, to call me back to the stories it holds when I need a refresher on exactly what it was that left my heart feeling so full and ready to take on the world when I finished that last page.
Speaking of book endings, the end of this book did a perfect summary of not only the Heroine’s Journey, but also the ways in which each and every person who reads it can incorporate the different chapters and lessons into their own life story and questions to ask yourself along your own journey toward authenticity and belonging.
Each of us as humans desires to belong to something. For most of us, at varying points in our life, we are faced with the challenge of finding exactly what that is. If it’s a location, a person, a job, an educational path, a religious calling, parenthood, pet ownership, the list goes on. In one way or another we all search for our place in this world. Some of us, myself included, are lead down paths that seem right until they completely collapse in on us, seemingly without any warning. This book and it’s stories found me exactly at a point where I not only needed it, but was ready to receive the information and tools it would leave me with for the rest of my journey.
As Sharon Blackie so beautifully put it, speaking directly to the parts of my soul so ready to hear this message, “After years of being uprooted myself, I’m finally learning about trees. Here is what I have learned about trees: they are tenacious. A rowan tree is beginning to grow out of a tiny crack in the old bedrock exposed by the river. The stone protects the seedling from the worst of the winds and gives it shelter. It clings tight; it will not let go. Here is what I have learned about trees: their roots are deep. They establish their roots first, and then they reach for the sky.”
“Gently, little tree; it’ll be a good many years before you grow, a good many years before you reach the stature of the last native oak of this old land of Min Doire. We will not live to see it. But if we tend you, sit by you each day and whisper our stories as we listen in turn to yours, you may yet root. You may yet rise.”