A Circle: A Powerful, Magical Thing

Lisa Shirah-Hiers is the president of the Story Circle Network's board of directors. We loved her welcoming speech at Stories From the Heart V and asked her permission to share it with you. If you were at the conference, you will remember her talk with pleasure. If not, you're in for a treat. Lisa's comments reach into the heart of Story Circle. She's telling our story, the story of our unique and remarkable organization, and she understands exactly why it is so powerful. It's all about circles and stories, isn't it? Thank you, Lisa!


Ladies, look around you. Isn’t SCN is something special? If you have been to a
conference, or Writing from Life, or you’re in a circle, you already know that.
But if this is your first time, if you’ve been getting the journal but never
been to our events before, or if this conference is the first time you’ve had
any connection with SCN, I predict that you will simply be blown away by what we
are, by what we do. Because what we are—all of us in this room—is a circle. What
is a circle? Well, for one thing, it’s round. And round, it turns out, is very,
very strong.

In Tai Chi we round our arms because that way we can better
withstand an attack. If you lock your arm or your wrist when an opponent comes
at you, the bone will break. But a round arm absorbs the shock. I tell my little
piano students to keep their knuckles rounded when they strike the key, because
round is strong. A rounded finger can take the stress of pounding away for hours
a day on some of the smallest joints in the body.

The Romans understood
the strength of the circle when they discovered the arch. The curve of the arch
distributes the stress in a way that makes it better able to withstand the force
of gravity. So we see that roundness, the circle, is inherently strong.
A circle is also egalitarian. We circle around a campfire, because in
this way, we are all equidistant from the heat. If we “squared” around the fire,
the folks in the corners would be cold. King Arthur’s table was round so that
all the knights would have the same status, sharing the power and prestige

Circles are protective. The pioneers circled the wagons when
they were under attack, so they could keep the most vulnerable safe in the
middle, just as the womb encircles the unborn baby and keeps it safe and

The circle is feminine. Women understand it on a very deep
level. We gather, we encircle the one who is crying, the one who is ill, or
giving birth, or dying. We understand the power of the circle, of coming
together, the wisdom of sharing, the necessity of connection, the strength in
softness, in curves, in arches, in roundness. That deep, unconscious archetype
is part of our feminine heritage, our collective memory. It is the source of our
unique strength.

Perhaps for these reasons, the very idea of the story
circle resonates so deeply with every woman I’ve ever spoken to. For not only
circles but stories are our domain too. In the old wive’s tales, the fairy
stories collected by the brothers Grimm and others, the favorite family stories
about great uncle David and Oma’s oma’s oma, we hold the precious memory of the
ancestors, we hold the myths, both universal and particular, the truths that
make us who we are, that give each of our families it’s own history, its own
culture, and which, at the same time, unite us in a common bond of

Drop a stone in the water, and the rings it gives birth
too will ripple outward far beyond your ability to see them. The Story Circle
Network is like that with every member like the stone that sets the water
quivering. We are a circle, we in this room, we members of SCN, and every woman
who has ever participated in anything we’ve ever done. We are a circle, where
stories are the arch that spans the distance between us. We are a circle which
gives equal honor to all, shares power and prestige and resources, allows each
member to reach the warm source of heat and life in the center. We are round and
we are strong. We are just what we say we are, a network, an interconnecting web
of relationship and memory. Every conference has been a circle of women, a
circle containing smaller, interconnecting circles. And every WFL, every
Lifelines retreat, every gathering of the SCN in every time, in every place. We
are each like the stone dropped in the pond, which sets the circles spinning,
rippling far beyond us, changing us, changing the world we live in. In the
safety of the circle we give birth to new words, new worlds, we give birth to
ourselves. For we are a circle, a Story Circle. And that is a powerful, magical

Lisa Shirah-Hiers (Austin, TX) has published numerous profile pieces for
austinwoman magazine, Austin Monthly, and the Story Circle Journal. Her essay
"Spinning Water into Gold" appeared in What Wildness is This: Women Write about
the Southwest
and was reprinted in Desert Call Magazine. She is SCN's board president,
a circle facilitator, and frequent workshop presenter.

5 responses to “A Circle: A Powerful, Magical Thing

  1. I was at the conference but it was so nice to read these inspiring words again. I will print and save the wonderful message Lisa shared as a boost to my writing sessions. To remember all the wonderful women and their stories–both poignant and heartbreaking that were shared over that weekend.
    Lisa–keep up the spirit. WE treasure you

  2. Lisa, this was wonderful at the conference, and wonderful once again! You are an inspiring voice for SCN. Renee is right: we do treasure you!

  3. I love this essay about story CIRCLE. I looked around my house when it was first built and changed many of the things that were square or rectangle and put in rounded substitutions. I changed rugs to oval, lights to round or chandeliers with light dancing in circles in the sun, my large mirror was oval and decorative, and my curtains opened in a swooping, rounded fashion. Round is comforting, soft and lovely.

  4. Joyce Boatright

    Thank you for posting this. I heard several people echo my own thoughts when we heard you at the SCN conference: “Oh, I wish I had a copy of what she’s saying!” And now, we do.
    As you so aptly say, “In the safety of the [Story Circle Network]circle we give birth to new words, new worlds, we give birth to ourselves.” How proud we are that you are our new national president.

  5. Just as the saying goes that you are never too old to learn. I believe it. At first keeping reading all the way can enrich our leisure and knowledge. We can learn a lot from reading. Do you think so?

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