For reasons I can’t fully explain, the title of this short story popped into my head on a recent early morning as I was stepping out of bed. This is a time of day when insight often comes to me, so I brought my full attention to those two words, The Interlopers, and allowed a sense of curiosity to build inside of me.
I was familiar with the story. It had been placed in my medicine chest of Curative Shorts in the summer of 2020 when I first discovered Saki, a 20th century British master of the short story. I had used a collection of his short stories in those months to move us through the uncertainties of the early days of Covid, social distancing, and unrest. But why The Interlopers, and why now? I had to know.
I pulled the story from my collection and found my answer reading the very first sentence. The words filled me with a sense of awe as the setting unfolded describing the "eastern spurs of the Karparthians," a mountain range running through Ukraine and Eastern Europe. The story was about fighting over borders, coming to love our enemies, and the role nature ultimately plays in all of life. I began to feel Saki’s presence beside me, his message alive and as relevant today as it was in 1919 written from his own experience fighting in France during World War I.
In a forest of mixed growth somewhere on the eastern spurs of the Karpathians, a man stood one winter night watching and listening, as though he waited for some beast of the woods to come within the range of his vision and, later, of his rifle. The Interlopers, Saki (1919)
Good literary fiction is timeless coming around again and again to teach us lessons we long to hear in the present moment. It allows us to play with real-life situations in our imaginations. Fiction can be a safe place where we can bear to look at things that scare us and find permission to experience the pleasures we desire in real life. And the fascinating thing about fiction is how it always takes us on a make-believe journey to find something very real and universally true.
If you would like to attend a complimentary Curative Shorts event and participate in a guided discussion of The Interlopers on either Thursday, April 21st at 7:30 pm or Sunday, April 24th, at 4:30 pm, simply reply “Yes” to your email and indicate your preference for Thursday night or Sunday afternoon. Each event is limited to twelve participants and is free of charge.
And finally, it is essential to recognize we can’t get any closer to a state of fight or flight than with the act of war. As we share empathy and feel our connection to the people of Ukraine and Eastern Europe who are fighting and flighting in this very moment, we have a responsibility to strengthen our own parasympathetic healing systems to mitigate the harmful effects of this kind of global stress on our health. To learn more about moving out of the fight or flight response as quickly as you can, I strongly recommend reading the book Cured by Dr. Jeffrey Rediger where you will find a whole chapter dedicated to managing stress. For a short taste of Chapter 5, Activate Healing Mode, take your Curative Reading Prescription here and listen to this 1+minute soundbite of Dr. Jeffrey Rediger speaking on managing threat stress. And then click here to read about the resiliency of the Ukrainian people and their ability to survive fight or flight.
I believe Saki sent me the title of his short story on that recent morning as I was stepping out of bed because his words hold something true for us today.
It is time to imagine a better story!
Curator & Literary Apothecary
P.S. The springtime scene above is of the Carpathian mountain range in Ukraine where present-day refugees are finding shelter and safety. These beautiful mountains have been a destination for centuries to those seeking peace. Imagine that!