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I have long admired Christina Baldwin’s work. Her Calling the Circle was an inspiration and effective mentor for me while I was beginning my own spiritual practice nearly 10 years ago. It remains a treasured companion. So it was with delight that I received her latest offering: Storycatcher.

Storycatcher. The word itself conjures up images of butterfly nets and long summer afternoons with family; the times when the elders would spin tales of their childhood, or from their childhood. Creating and reaffirming family all at once. In reality, our lives are filled with stories—television, radio, and e-mail all give us stories. As Baldwin points out, "Story is both the great revealer and concealer" and her theme is that of authentic stories and storycatching is "a skill we can remember and practice and encourage in each other."

Baldwin invites us to step into our stories and to see ourselves and our story through the "spiral of experience." The spiral is engaged when "something happens to shake up the status quo of our lives." Other tools for storycatchers are charts that describe what "story space" is and "Setting the Space." All of these tools come from Baldiwn’ own poignant and powerful story in relation to her experiences as a young writer; her family, especially her brother Carl; and world events like the Cuban Missile Crisis. Reading her own story, as well as answering the questions she poses at the end of each chapter, reminds the reader about what we each find important. As storycatchers, we are practitioners of the heart of language. "In serving as the heart of language, story imparts four distinct gifts." They are: "1) story creates context; 2) context highlights relationship, 3) context and relationship change behavior and lead to holistic and connected action; and 4) connected action becomes a force for restoring/restorying the world."  
 
In the second half of the book, Baldwin includes the stories of others. A young woman in Africa, a grandmother in Arizona, a visionary Danish friend, two Episcopalian priests. Each has something in his or her life that resonates with our own. The gift is that resonance, but it is also the vision--how they took their stories into the world.  
 
From the personal, Baldwin takes us to the impersonal state of the workplace. But, as she points out, it isn't a place without story. People work there after all, and the organization or institution also has a story. Baldwin describes the work of Toke Paludan Møller, a Danish man she met through her work with From the Four Directions, and who is "a spiritual warrior for story space." Møller has favorite questions for his work in an organization, and Baldwin includes a list of them. When Møller works with a group of people, he thinks about three levels of story: "the individual story, the organizational story, and the species story." Baldwin and Møller, among others, are part of a vision called the Art of Hosting, where a team of hosts volunteer to hold the space for the three levels of story. What results "is a community of people who are practicing the power of conversation to change the world."  
 
As a resource for personal writing and the oral tradition, Storycatcher is filled with inspiring pathways and stirring questions for writers and storytellers. But even more so, Storycatcher is itself a story: one that places language as the sacred foundation of being human and connects us to the joy within ourselves, each other, our past, and our future.

Highly recommended.

~review by Lisa Mc Sherry

Author: Christina Baldwin

New World Library, 2007

pp. 272, $14.95
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