Zoe is a magical storyteller who lives in a tiny hamlet north of London with her English husband and their three kids. When the wind blows a certain way, she can smell the pet food factory across the fields. She told me this soon after her first message to me. The message to see if she could tell my story. She has a podcast you see. Telling the extraordinary stories of ordinary people.
And she’d seen my story on Facebook. She didn’t remember how long ago. She writes down things she wants to go back to in pencil somewhere. She has people from all over the world who reach out to her with their extraordinary stories, thinking maybe she’ll tell theirs on her podcast.
Zoe has a magical way of telling those stories. She’s from Belgium and speaks English with the most delectable French accent. And she selects perfect music for the background. It’s a bit European. And she has an incredible grasp of the person and their story. And perfect timing and interplay of narration and use of the subject’s own voice.
She’d sent me a note in Messenger. She remembered liking my story and would I be interested in having her tell it? She included the link for her story about Madeline Forman for me to listen to.
The story of Kasey and Henry is extraordinary. I had a mathematician calculate the odds of us meeting once. Not only us meeting via a wrong number text message, but then falling in love; with me being 30 years older and including Henry give me a kidney. One in a billion the guy said.
That was the story that had piqued her interest. But she wanted to tell my story. Who is Kasey and how did she wind up the woman who’d fall in love with a man 30 years her junior? I greeted her warmly as I replied in Messenger. Yes! How cool. I’d be very interested. Let me listen to that episode and I’d get back to her and confirm.
I clicked into the link and had barely started to listen to her tell the story of Madeline when I started to cry. The podcast intro was welcoming and charming. The music touched me and her story telling knocked me to my knees. I was humbled by her desire to want to tell my story. In her voice, with that music, with her keen sense of timing. I only listened a few minutes before I was writing her back.
“Oh Zoe, I’m crying. Your story telling is divine! Your accent touches my heart…”
And then, not unlike when I met Henry through that wrong number text, she and I started an exchange. Messenger, text, WhatsApp, email.
For some reason I’d mentioned I’d worked for a pet food company in the US. That’s when she told me she could sometimes smell their factory near her. At that moment I knew we were surely connected. Where is that factory located, I queried, not letting on that I was about to surprise her. As I suspected, I’d been there. I even had a picture of a piece of pottery I’d gotten in a particularly quaint village near there. And she confirmed her village was next to it.
She reaches out to a total stranger who lives in the US and we’ve both been to the same pub in the same village.
There was no mistake that I was supposed to meet this magical woman.
Serendipity. I’d been surrounded by it since I was a little girl. For anyone who knows me, I’m sure no one is surprised that I’d find such a close connection with a stranger in another country.
But I digress.
Oh wait, I do have to say we connected on, among other things, that I’d studied French for 10 years, our favorite colors…pink and orange, The Alchemist and her deep appreciation of and relationship with synchronicity. I asked her if she’d ever seen the movie, Serendipity. Do you know that story? With John Cusack and the book…? She watched it. She loved it.
If you loved that movie, you need to listen to “The Little Orange Lady” episode of her podcast.
Zoe and I had a 2 hour Zoom on Monday. It was so amazing to sit with this woman who I’d gotten to know over the weekend with all our shared stories. And I’d listened to more of her podcasts. And she read all my blogs.
Zoe is a great studier of people. A tremendous listener. She listened for the questions to ask. The ones which would bring her the insight into me. The ones to ask me to give me insight into myself.
We had an incredible 2 hours laughing and sharing like old friends. She’s so easy to speak with. To relate to.
Once she’s done the interview, she becomes taken over by the life of the story. It hits her and then she has to write it. It comes together for her as the hours go by. She writes it first before she records it. Sitting in bed with her iPhone, typing it with her thumbs in the Notes App.
We loved sharing that we each know what that feels like.
I got the draft recording of my story today and after I listened to it, humbled once again by her magical storytelling, I now I find myself compelled to tell her story in my blog. It’s Christmas night and I’m sitting on the couch surrounded by wrapping paper, a sleeping Cooper the cat, candy on the coffee table and Henry dozing on the chair next to me. The story is tumbling out of my brain through my hands and into my laptop.
By the way, her podcast is called “the airing cupboard.” According to the internet, an airing cupboard houses the core elements of the heating systems for a house. In England, which is traditionally recognized as being a bit cool and damp, these cupboards are an ideal place to store towels and bedding, as they stay dry and cozy with the extra heat. I didn’t ask her about the title of her podcast and since it’s about 2 am there, I’m simply going to muse upon it.
A small, cozy, warm and dry cubby in a house in the countryside in England. Is it a bit like the attic window seat of everyone’s favorite writer, Jo March, in Little Women? For anyone with a desire to create, a nook is a prized location. For her it must be a cozy and peaceful place to process stories, to listen to her intuition, to write them. Perhaps there’s a metaphor here. It’s not coming to me. But what I DO know, is hearing Zoe say “the airing cupboard,” is enough for me. That accent…it’s so delicious.
When Zoe first approached me, I didn’t think the story she’d tell about me would be from birth to present. But that’s where it went. And because it did, Zoe’s magic storytelling, achieved through her incredible talent for listening, gave me an opportunity to look at the full circle of my life. It let me see how as a child I felt like I needed to hold myself back from shining my inner light and how I’d been holding it back ever since. I’ve been so close to really letting it shine recently. Yes, even at 62, I’ve held back.
I read a story once of a big cat who was relegated to a very small spot in a Zoo. Ultimately her pen was enlarged radically but she was so used to the boundaries of her small space, she didn’t leave it.
And through Zoe’s clarifying questions I find myself realizing, now that I’m back in my childhood home, I’ve come full circle. I get to be a child or 17 again. I’m no longer in the little box, once imposed and then self-imposed ever after. This time it’s to feel the freedom of innocence and pure love and light and ebullience.
This is what Magical Zoe helped me find in myself. (All the following are Zoe’s phrases…) The enormity of the role of serendipity in my life. The synchronicity of different events that led me here. That all along, the universe WAS conspiring in my favor. The girl I used to be who was so desperate to belong. While, the very fact of not fitting in the box was going to design the extraordinary trajectory of my life.
Being different was my strength.
You’ve read my writings…I was almost there. I’d done so much self excavation, I suppose the crank needed to be turned just a little more for the spring to release the lid for the box to burst open.
I’m home and I get to start all over again!
Zoe’s podcast, “the airing cupboard,” will surely bring magic to your world when you listen to her extraordinary stories of ordinary people.
And now, here’s mine…“Jack-in-a-box.”