the voice in your pocket

illustration of vasalisa

I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories… water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

Last week, we started the story ‘Vasalisa,’ a Russian and global folktale. In the story, Vasalisa loses her mother and receives a doll to keep her pocket. The doll, her mother’s dying gift, is supposed to lead her in her mother’s absence. Through a series of misfortunes, she is alone in the woods in search of fire. She can only seek help from the witch Baba Yaga to rekindle her home hearth. But Baba Yaga is a dangerous character who tests Vasalisa at the constant threat of death. With the help of her doll, whose voice indeed guides her throughout the story, she passes all the tests and returns home with fire, burning up her enemies and lighting her home.

In her book Women Who Run with the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes describes how this little doll is the carrier of the inner voice, the intuition that guides someone when they are positively lost and without a clear path in sight. That’s the situation that Vasalisa is in throughout the story and each of us, I’m sure, can relate to this.

Once, a long time ago, I had a strange and wonderful teacher who gave me a book I could not understand. I spent three hours getting through 16 pages. I went to him and said, “I do not understand this.” And completely unruffled, he replied, “I didn’t intend you to. This was intended to initiate you in the material.” He was planting seeds for a place my mind would someday travel to and cultivate when I was ready.

That’s what I believe this little voice does. Somewhere inside you, a voice plants the seed and you are self-initiated into the next step of your journey. It takes a great deal of self-trust to follow that voice when you don’t know where it’s coming from or quite where it will lead–one must live the with hope that it will guide you from the woods.

And one step further, if it were possible, I wanted this experience for our writing group: to initiate us all in the idea that there was a trustworthy voice inside each of us to guide us out of the woods and further into the people we could become. When I first read ‘Vasalisa,’ the idea that I could 1) trust myself and 2) that that self-trust could be articulated in an audible inner voice was revelatory. I didn’t expect to change minds; I just put the story on the table with hope. I hoped each of us would listen, then catch fire.

The poem below is a writer and his fire:


Find a story within.
What is it?
What can it be?
Look to see your life
inside you.
Where are you?
Make one that
will keep you alive
not silent of the
energy or resilience
that brings
you to walk.
A simple story,
a lasting memory
going forward in
what we express,
nature’s one pack.
Open up for that search.


. . . and you?

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