Just about everybody knows the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. In short, it’s the story where Jack swaps his family cow for some magic beans. His mother admonishes him for such a foolish act, and throws the seemingly worthless beans out the window, where they grow overnight into a glorious beanstalk stretching far into the sky. Jack’s curiosity, leading him to climb the beanstalk for a grand adventure, brings the family unimaginable riches and saves them from a life of poverty.
I’ve always loved this story. The elements of fun, mystery, enchantment, thrills, and a little bit of danger capture my imagination, but the thing I love most is Jack’s absolute trust and belief in the power of a few magic seeds.
For me, Jack and the Beanstalk is also a picture of the power of storytelling and human potential. If only we too could trust in our own ‘magic seed’ drops of inspiration, we could create our own adventures.
You see, every single day, we are given signs, cues, prompts, and suggestions to help us live our perfectly authentic life—the destiny that is being shaped for us—moment by moment. But so many of us ignore, disregard, or throw out the seeds with the trash. The responsible ‘mother’ inside us all tosses the seeds out the window. Sadly, most of these seeds fail to thrive, a victim of a lack of sunlight, rain, and soil nourishment. Those seeds containing so much potential simply rot away.
But, the truth is, if we learn to pay attention to the offer of seeds, and can grab them with both hands of curiosity, we’ll soon be planting beanstalks to help us reach our own big sky–high adventures.
The easiest way to ensure you never walk by a potential seed–swapper again is to open your eyes and use every little bit of inspiration for your family storytelling adventures.
Today, I want you to look around and find five new things in your local environment—things you simply haven’t noticed before, or things that attract your attention now that you are actively looking. I guarantee you—this practical task will astound you.
Just the other day, I noticed a garden of pink and white carnations, a flock of sea–birds sunning their wings, a sign painted on the pathway inviting me to ‘Have a lovely day’ (I walk over it daily and had NEVER seen it), and the sign at the entry to my seaside town reminding everyone that it is a place of ‘simple pleasures’. (It really is and that is why I love it. )
I also felt pure joy in my heart when I drove down a street in a nearby town and saw house after house labelled with the family name of the residents. This tradition harks back to the days of neighbourly chats with the postman, in towns where everyone knew one another by name. Seeing ‘The Murphys’ emblazoned on a hanging sign by the front gate made my day. I was tempted to knock on the door and invite myself in for afternoon tea!
But the point is, these new seeds of inspiration can become the foundations for new work and (or) life direction for both you, and your family. Perhaps you’ll start to think about moving town to one that meets your community–building desires, or you begin planning a documentary on the women and men who have lived in one town their entire life. You might join a course on metal work and fashion a life-size sculpture of a seabird for next year’s Sculpture by the Sea competition you’ve always loved. Or redo the family budget to include a fortnightly display of native flowers, like you’ve always wanted to do.
You can also use the day’s five discoveries to flavour your storytelling adventures with your children. Each night, you can weave the elements into a new picture, planting the seeds in their heads too. Shared stories might lead to flower themes in their paintings or drawing, or be fodder for their play as they create their own family signpost for outside the house. Perhaps they’ll open a book on bird-life and be inspired to document all the local birdcalls, or request a family day out on the hire boats and canoes in town. You just never know where a magic seed will lead. (Your daily ‘magic seed’ hunt will also inspire your children’s ‘magic seed’ hunting. This fun activity can build really strong family bonds as you search and deliver together.)
The act of storytelling itself is also open to ‘magic seed’ transformation and rejuvenation. You are no longer bound to telling stories at bedtime, snuggled up under the covers, or around campfires. (Not that you ever were!) But the magic seeds of inspiration encourage you to tell and make up stories in all kinds of ways, in all kinds of places, anytime. Perhaps you see a set of ‘story dice’ on Pinterest and decide to make your own set, inspired by themes and images that excite your children such as trucks, fairies, apple trees, toadstools, or pizza. Making up a new story is then as simple as rolling your six picture–laden dice and using those images as foundation elements.
Or perhaps on a walk one day, you’ll spy the perfect storytelling tree by the river and return with your family for picnic there one lazy sunny afternoon. Or maybe you’ll spy a dolphin in the sea and plot their family genealogy or her route back ‘home’. You might write down five open-ended words or sentences, seen on your daily travels, onto cardboard and invite the children to sort and embellish them further. Or maybe you spot a child playing string games and decide to create a new string game to accompany a story you wrote about a butterfly that landed on your shoulder.
There are two other storytelling seeds we can’t forget. The first is the art of photography. Whether you use an iphone, a digital camera, or prefer something more old school, taking photos of random things during the day can spark new ideas too. Reflecting upon my photos, I often spy tiny, almost hidden secrets in the background of scenes. A wistful cat, a playful shadow of light, or the movement of the wind can shape my memory of the moment and pull my thinking in a new tangent. Photographs can be printed and used as shuffle story–starter cards, or hung across a long piece of string for contemplation.
The second magic storytelling seed is to use props. I love invisible ink—drawing on a piece of paper with wax crayon and painting over it with watercolour to see the message or drawing. Or looking around the playroom or kitchen to find toys or tools that might spark a new way of looking at a problem or idea. One time, when my magic seeds were deep underground, I opened up a dictionary at ‘A’, and worked my way through the book, writing down any word that caught my eye. Not only did I learn lots of new and exciting words, my magic seeds began to sprout instantly.
I like to think that sometimes our magic seeds are in fact bulbs, and that given time, and a bit of love and care, they will fruit and bloom into the most glorious colourful flowers of which we can be proud.
So, only two questions remain. Where will you find your magic seeds today, and where will you plant them?
Writer and Parenting Educator, Amber Greene (B. Ed, ADCC) is a mother of two. Her work provides a flash of insight and bright ideas for a variety of topics including Parenting in the Early Years, Sustainable Living and Artistry in Everyday Life. She writes daily on her blog, inspiring women and children (and men too) to ‘fire up their creative spark!’. Amber’s “Parenting Fun” website can be found here. Contact Amber via email firstname.lastname@example.org