“Have you no shame in the marrow of your bones?”

My friend Sheila is a wonderful storyteller. She spins the most spellbinding tales of growing up in India, the youngest child of a railway executive and his society wife. Her mother, she says, was a very proper woman who did not always know what to do with such a high spirited girl.

Sheila has no shame in the marrow of her bones. But she has lots of imagination. I thought of her this morning when I read this quote by Henry Ward Beecher:

“The imagination is the secret and marrow of civilization.”

Sheila and I were toastmasters together a few years ago. She would tell stories about living on the edge of the jungle that would keep me on the edge of my seat, until the tiger appeared, or didn’t, though they had waited up all night to see him.

I suppose I have always thought Sheila a little exotic. And I’m drawn to the wildness in her tales. They speak to my spirit of adventure and are, in the words of George Eliot, “a hunting-grounds for my poetic imagination.”

“A poet needs to keep his wildness alive inside him,” poet Stanley Kunitz says. And that’s what Sheila has done, despite her mother’s best efforts and sixty plus years of civilized living.

Unlike Sheila I feel the shame in the marrow of my bones. It sometimes causes me to hide my own wildness, or shrink away from the wild adventures that otherwise I might embrace.

But imagination is like a free radical in my system, burning out the shame that would bind me, releasing my inner wildness, reminding me what it means to be truly alive.

Three morals in this story:

1. We all need to keep a little wildness alive inside us.
2. The wild places inside are the hunting grounds for our poetic imagination.
3. Imagination can help to burn out the shame that lives in the marrow of our bones, and set us free.

Yours with creativity and imagination,

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