By Ken Lutes
Keepers of the Story” is Micah Springer’s account of her yearlong 1993 adventure in Africa with her best friend, Kas. The self-published memoir tells of a life-changing journey overflowing with love, danger, language challenges and moonlight dances, all of which fostered Springer’s “pathway to inner wisdom and the divine.”
In 1993, the two friends broke away from their studies at CU Boulder and decided to backpack through Africa. They started in Senegal then backpacked through Gambia, Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon; they toured Uganda, Tanzania and the Congo and flew to Kenya, where most of “Keepers” takes place.
“Keepers” is presented in three sections: Mind, Body and Spirit. ‘Mind’ opens with the two friends landing on a foreign continent and being immediately thrust into cultural misunderstandings.
“Kas and I were smart, critical thinkers and had no idea of how long it was to take us to assimilate into the culture – it took three or four months,” Springer said.
In ‘Body,’ Springer falls madly in love with a nomadic pastoral man. She shares how the journey was to become her path to an understanding of earth-centered wisdom.
“My love affair was both impossible and perfect. He opened me to the sacredness of life, of death and of the divine.
“He and his tribe are such present-minded beings – for instance, in their language they don’t have future and past tenses. They don’t have the verb ‘to think.’ They stay in the present moment and because of that they are telepathic. They belong to one another, and they belong to the earth.”
Her return to Denver left her grappling with the feeling that she had left her spirit in Africa.
“Yoga helped me knit the disparate parts of myself back together from the culture shock of returning and not having a sense of belonging. The practice of mind-body awareness had to be in the story, because what I found is that nomadic, indigenous peoples are inherent yogis. They don’t have to study it.”
By the time Springer returned to Africa, Kenya had issued travel warnings not to travel north – all the places she needed to go to try to find her “family.”
“Nomads are not easy to find. That was before Facebook,” she said. She did find her family, and they not only remembered her, but she discovered they had always considered her and kept the story of her alive.
“That was part of the reason for the book title.”
One theme in the book is the “insidious nature of cultural conditioning that inhibits who we are meant to be,” Springer said. “I feel there’s a real discussion about wanting to belong, but what happens when you belong is you suddenly start to placate, or censor, [in order] to blend in. One of the prices of belonging is the sacrifice of freedom; it’s one of the costs. I played with that theme, because in my heart of hearts, I want to belong and still be exactly who I am.”
Springer believes this story about the wild enthusiasm of a 20 year old traveling in Africa, throwing caution to the wind, is compelling for a lot of people.
“There is a bit of a wake-up call in the book, to live your brighter life.” She says she occasionally cautions people, who are on the brink of big change in their life, that “the book has the capacity to topple them over sooner than if they had not read it.”
Who are the keepers of the story?
“I think we all are,” says Springer, “but you have to figure out which stories to keep, and which ones you want to tell.” Her book plays with creation myth and cultural conditioning. “That’s a story that we keep. And when we suffer a tragedy, what part of the tragedy do we hang on to, and how do we transmute it?”
Since the book’s publication, Springer’s self-promoted book tour has taken her to speak at bookstores across the nation; she has presented at about 20 book clubs in Denver. Co-owner of Vital Yoga with her sister, Desi, since 1999, Springer recently sold her interest in the Tennyson Street building to her sister, having made the decision to become a full-time writer.
“I’ve been bitten by the poetry bug. The beauty of poetry is its brevity; it’s almost like taking a photograph and exploring all the nuances in that moment. I find it an incredibly imaginal realm that I love to inhabit – or it’s inhabiting me, I should say. There’s the muse, which is the artist’s inspiration that exists outside of us, but then there’s something called tenir duende, and duende is the rising of that spirit inside that infuses our art.”
Springer says she easily has enough poems for three volumes and that they don’t have much to do with her experiences in Africa. Each poem begins with one line. One of them is titled “Go hungry, as you are.”
“I was in my kitchen thinking I’d like to go on a hike today. Then I realized I was hungry, and I thought, you’ll always make an excuse if you don’t go hungry, as you are. The poem became this dual relationship between ‘Yes, my stomach’s hungry, but my spirit’s hungry.’ We have to stop trying to be prepared for our adventures. The reason we sought that adventure is that it will sate us to some degree, if we’ll just step in to it. I just like to go and see what happens. I think that cultivates great curiosity and youthfulness.”
Springer enjoys the life-style of a writer. She likes speaking to groups and says her years of teaching have prepared her to find authenticity in a crowd and be able to feel one with everybody.
“It’s amazing how you can set out with the intention of teaching yoga, and what you glean is a mastery of presentation.”
“Keepers” is printed on 100-percent post-recycled paper. At the time it was published, Green Press Initiative stated that an average book of 250 pages, selling one million copies requires 12,000 trees; deforestation accounts for 25 percent of human-caused CO2 emissions. Springer said those two statistics helped influence her choice to self-publish and to produce a book made from recycled paper. Her poetry books will also be printed on recycled paper.
“Keepers of the Story” is available at BookBar, Tattered Cover Book Store and Boulder Book Store; also on Audible.com and in digital versions.