Catch and Release Storytelling-an idea sparked by an image

It’s amazing how a compelling image can quickly cascade into an ever widening web of associations.

When I first glimpsed Andrea Benson’s extraordinary Unraveling #1, it immediately evoked for me the Bhutanese conception of storytelling as a process of unraveling and releasing. 

“In the Bhutanese tradition, stories, fables, and legends are not told but are unraveled and released… It means that storytelling, is a continuous process (unraveling) and to be released stories must be alive and vibrant.  Stories are, therefore alive and continuous not only in the minds of those who unravel and those who release them, but also in the minds of those who listen to them being unraveled and released.  This oral tradition, transmitted by one generation to another, is thus the continuing and living thread that links on generation to another.”  (Folktales of Bhutan by Kuzang Chidden, published by White Lotus Co. 1993)

My mind then jumped to the words of the naturalist/author Ernest Thompson Seton.

“Whenever you discover the folksiness of some tree, the compact of bee and bloom, the all-aboutness of some secret, or the friendship of a frog pond, you must in some sort note it down, and pass it on to another way-seeker. When you have found a trail you are thereby ordained a guide. When you have won a kingdom, you must give it away or lose it.”    

He could have  just as easily been talking about stories. When you have heard a wonderful story, you must give it away or lose it. It’s the same with Fairy Gold. Share it or it disappears. Yes! Storytellers, unravel and release those stories! Don’t forget those spooky cautionary tales out there about the revenge of story spirits angered by not being told!

I call this Catch and Release Storytelling.

Taking a closer look at Unraveling #1, I see the artist, the teller, her body, the tales, the very earth itself, all of a single cloth, a great living weave.

One image, invoking an entire world. Connected.

Aha! Isn’t this an iteration of Indra’s net, the great metaphor from Mahayana Buddhism?

Imagine a fabulous net extending  infinitely in all directions. Now imagine  a single brilliant shining jewel placed at every node…each place where the threads of the  net thread cross. The jewels hang in the net like shining stars. Pick any one, closely inspect it, and you discover that upon its shining surface are reflected all of the other jewels hanging on the net, infinite in number. Each of the reflected jewels reflecting each of the other jewels. An infinite number of reflected reflections.   Now, see yourself and everyone else included in those reflections. 

More than simply metaphor, this is the inviolable  nature of inter-being, interconnectedness and interdependence.  I am who I am because of who we all are together.  That we of course, extends far beyond the human realm to all living beings.  

Catch and Release Stories!  What a wonderful way to recognize and remember that we are all in this world together how and that we are all truly related.

Story Strong
Three Fold Legacy Workshop

Thank you  so much Andrea Benson for sparking this morning’s muse and for your kind permission to share Unraveling #1 here.

(Find her work at


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