A Story of Flying

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Joseph Campbell used the term apotheosis to describe the burgeoning of consciousness that the story’s mythical hero experiences after defeating her foe, or ghost, or predator – the kind of awareness that feels feathery and weightless, as if flying. For the last few months while writing my submission for Winged, I have been considering how stories function as a form of such apotheosis.

Stories are consciousness and, as many have said before me, they are living things. Stories evolve as and when we do. They function to elevate and advance our humanity, and illustrate aspects of our human spirit. They heal, guide, explain, agitate, and invigorate us. They convince us of the impossible and awaken us to what is possible. I’m sure I’m not alone in being a child of the eighties and remembering the first time I inherently understood that stories do live was thanks to Michael Ende’s Falkor and The Neverending Story.

Prolific novelist Alice Hoffman says each story is always made for two: the teller and the listener, the writer and the reader. Whether we are writing or reading them, stories change us. They make us clutch our throats to catch our breath, and feel fire in our bellies to fight for something we believe is just. Through stories, we awaken, we remember, we love, and we grieve. Through stories we discover what has been hidden from our view and are reminded what we care about and who we are when we are too busy/tired/distracted to remember. Stories fill us with uncapped skies, which we can float through at our will. Stories are hope – recognising the call to action within stories is in itself a hopeful act, for within each story hides an incantation for change. Novelist Mohsin Hamid said storytelling alters the storyteller. Or writer, or reader. And a story is altered by being told. Or written, or read.

I caught up with a dear friend last week, a fellow writer of far more experience and acclaim than myself. She asked me about the writing routine I’m trying to re-establish now that I’m back in the UK from a lengthy trip to my homeland Australia. She sat quietly, listening deeply. When our conversation turned to the novel I am writing she said to me, “Let’s be honest. There are enough books in the world for everyone to read. But if you don’t write your story, here is the non-negotiable truth: it won’t ever exist.”

This non-negotiable truth is why the existence of an anthology of stories like Winged is so important. Winged is our specific and artistic response to the bee and pollinator crisis. It carries within it impassioned stories issuing calls to action in varying forms. Without such books as Winged, our stories, our burgeoning consciousnesses, would not ‘exist’. They would remain untold, unpainted, unwritten, uncomposed, and unexpressed. The power within each of our stories would remain dormant, and we would never realise the potential of what telling them could possibly achieve.

Each story is always made for two: the teller and the listener, the writer and the reader. The worth of our stories is in sharing them.
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver once asked, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild, and precious life?” To answer I would be proud to present Ms Oliver with Winged, an anthology of stories for change. A lesson in how stories can teach us to fly.

Photo: “A Story About Flying” by Ryan Conners

About the author

HRinglandHolly Ringland grew up on the southeast Queensland coast in Australia. When she was nine her family lived on the road for two years in North America, travelling between national parks, inspiring in Holly what would become a lifelong fascination with different cultures, landscapes, and stories. In her early twenties she moved inland to Australia’s Central Desert where she spent four years working for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and living in the Aboriginal community of Mutitjulu. In 2009 Holly moved to the UK and gained her MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester. She is now working on her Creative Writing PhD with Griffith University and King’s College London. Holly’s research territory is the symbiosis between the creative writing process, ghosts, place, and memory, amongst other ideas that get left at the door of the garden shed in which she is writing her prose fiction submission for Winged.

More at hollyringland.com.

The Bees of Kangaroo Island

Approximately 14 kilometres off the coast of South Australia lies an island about the same size as Puerto Rico. For thousands of years Ramindjeri people have known it as Karta, the island of the dead, sacred home of departed ancestral souls. But nineteenth century colonisation gave it its dominant European name when British explorer Matthew Flinders called it Kangaroo Island.

Known to the locals today as KI, the island thrives on a successful agricultural industry and burgeoning tourism. Early immigrants to KI were mostly British, German, and Italian farmers, stockmen, and beekeepers. In 1884 Ligurian bees were introduced to KI from their native Italy (by way of England, and then Queensland) to not only ensure economic survival, but also because of KI’s abundant bee-friendly flora and its geographical isolation that guaranteed genetic purity.

In 1885 an Act of Parliament was passed in Adelaide to proclaim Kangaroo Island as a sanctuary for the imported Ligurian bees. Following the passing of the 1931 Apiaries Act, which allowed for the inspection and confiscation of vessels or apparatus headed to KI, quarantine on the island has always been strictly enforced.

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Photos by Amber Share, Native Food & Wine

Thanks to this legal protection and the inter-generational attention of the island’s beekeepers, KI’s Ligurian bees have remained free of disease since their introduction. To this date they are the only known colony of pure Ligurian bees left in the world, and Kangaroo Island is the only known honeybee sanctuary of its kind.

The significance of this pristine and healthy colony is proven by how Kangaroo Island’s bees are now helping scientists understand the current bee crisis and work to protect the rest of the world’s bee populous, and also, astonishingly, contribute to cancer research. Early studies at the University of Sydney indicate that propolis taken from KI’s bees (an antibacterial substance that all hives make) is high in Reversatrol, which amongst other things has been effective in treating tumors.

Kangaroo Island’s hard-working and reputably gentle-natured Ligurian bees are one of many examples helping us to understand: without the work of honeybees, many food crops will fail. Unless bees are protected, unless the same kind of foresight of legislation passed in 1885 is enacted now, global food shortage is a very real threat, as is the demise of our natural world.

Photos by Amber Share, Native Food and Wine
Photos by Amber Share, Native Food and Wine

All this and I’ve not mentioned the award-winning organic sugar gum honey, or the famous Kangaroo Island honey ice cream.

In essence this blog post is a small contribution to a much larger discussion. What can we each do about the bee crisis? Whether pure-strain Ligurian, or not, a single honeybee does its humble job and in doing so makes an essential contribution to the survival of our planet.

Writers, this is our waggle dance. Winged is our nectar. We must pick up our pens. We must conjure the alchemy of our imagination to awaken, agitate, pollinate, and transform our bee-themed thoughts into the powerful elixir that is story.

We must. This is our humble job.

About the author

HRinglandHolly Ringland grew up on the southeast Queensland coast in Australia. When she was nine her family lived on the road for two years in North America, travelling between national parks, inspiring in Holly what would become a lifelong fascination with different cultures, landscapes, and stories. In her early twenties she moved inland to Australia’s Central Desert where she spent four years working for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and living in the Aboriginal community of Mutitjulu. In 2009 Holly moved to the UK and gained her MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester. She is now working on her Creative Writing PhD with Griffith University and King’s College London. Holly’s research territory is the symbiosis between the creative writing process, ghosts, place, and memory, amongst other ideas that get left at the door of the garden shed in which she is writing her prose fiction submission for Winged.

More at hollyringland.com.

Grateful appreciation to photographer Amber Share of Native Food and Wine, for her photos of Ligurian honey bees, reposted from original story here.