Dispatches from the Iceberg
Welcome to our Anam Alba Diary, where we plan to keep you up to date with our progress, plans and reflections.
Singing from The Fringe
In August 2023 we returned to the Edinburgh Fringe with two shows; The Little Iceberg Musical and Auld Lang Sing. Both shows enjoyed wonderful reviews and we are incredibly proud of this work. The efforts and talents of a wonderful collection of people made this happen. We thank each and every person involved because we could not have done any of this on our own.
We begin our Diary with a reflection, prompted by a question we are sometimes asked? Why is the Little Iceberg all alone? What is the backstory? How did she end up at this point? These are good questions. So, we hand you over to the character we thought best placed to answer; The Little Bird herself.
Letters from the Little Bird
We just don’t always need to know.
‘I am a snow bunting and I fly as close to the artic as any small bird will dare. In vast landscapes of sea and ice, I negotiate endless skies without the need of visual clues, some internal compass guides me and I am confident in this wilderness.
This is where I found her. The Little Iceberg. Floating all alone. Scared, isolated, filled with suspicion, alert to danger and ready to defend herself.’
If you have watched or listened to our story, you will know that the little bird’s most important lines consist of three words; Courage, Compassion and Kindness. She says them out loud. Names them as expressions of internal states, consciously chosen responses. They are the components needed to build and sustain a meaningful relationship.
It is a powerful message and however childlike or sweet it may sound as part of a children’s story; the hard grown-up reality is that relationships of depth require these qualities. Stepping into trust takes Courage. Seeing beyond our own pain to soften our heart in the face of another suffering takes Compassion. And, when the world is confusing and desolate, a safe default is Kindness, it embodies the desire to do no further harm.
Their message is clear, this orientation may very well melt the ice of someone’s fear or anxiety but there is also another message that is whispered on the soft eddy of the little bird’s wings.
‘I do not know what chapter of her life I flew in on. I do not know her circumstances and I am glad. It protects me from my own assumptions. In my concern, I might accidently weigh the circumstances and judge how valid I perceive her feelings to be or evaluate how deserving she is of my care. I don’t need more information. I don’t need more information to know that she is lonely. I already know. I feel it when I look at her. I see her fragility and the suspicion that clouds her expression. I see that abandonment has seared fingers of loneliness around her heart and left their scars. Below the layers of ice, she cannot breathe, it is too big a risk to thaw.
Did you know that I can feel sadness in the same way that I can feel the blast of icy artic winds? Loneliness feels like the vast, still silence of the sea when it is calm. The occasional lap of salt water scrapping over the ice, a reminder of there being no one else there.
She will not trust me easily; it will take patience and time. Days and nights will pass as I flit around her edges, dancing closer when I judge it to be safe and swooping out and round again when distance is needed. In flight my movement is fluid and I constantly adjust to her needs until the moment comes when I hover silently and wait as we forge an unspoken agreement to take another step in trust.’
We need to know that our stories are in safe hands, that they will be held without judgment. It is with trepidation that we chance opening our hearts. That we venture cautiously and vulnerably into the intimacy of a relationship with another. As shame and fear melt, stories are shared little by little, in the quiet, in confidence, in safety and in privacy. In this environment, belief in the invitation of an enticing connection grows into trust – we become willing to share in advance of the relief and the new found intimacy because it is safe to take the chance that the care will stay and we will be met with tenderness.
‘I listen to your story and I know, where I need to start, where I need to go’
‘Such little steps and so many of them. Now that The Little Iceberg has accepted my presence, will she tell me how she feels?
Will she trust me? Trust herself? I will stay with her as she feels her feelings.
I will help her hold them if they are too big and she will be reassured enough to know that she can discover their secrets and will not die.’
There is often an agonising space between the desire to share and be known and the physical utterance of words. Dredging up the words that give voice to our deepest fears, humiliations or hurts can be physically painful. There is a good deal of somatic discomfort as the emotion woven into those experiences makes an escape.
‘Frightened by the storm, please don’t leave me on my own.’
‘You are safe, I’m right here by your side’
‘I will hear this little iceberg; I will listen as her feelings tease out the hurts and fears like silken threads at the frayed edges of her story.
I will be a witness to all that they reveal, we will gaze on them together, accept them and let them go. It is all possible with a friend.’
Our little bird brings a delicate reminder that each story is sacred. Our inner story, the one that unfolds when we pay attention to how we feel, the story that we don’t always know ourselves. Feelings direct us to our own truth. There is no right or wrong, they just are; and whatever they are, whatever is behind them, that’s where the real story lies.
The rest? We just really didn’t need to know.