I have been thinking about storytelling quite a bit lately. I’ve been thinking about the importance of storytelling, of sharing information via tales and stories. I’ve been thinking about the modes of storytelling, too.
When Willow was four, we took a vacation to southern California together. As we drove across the hot, barren Mojave desert, she sat in her child seat in the back of the car and told me stories about the companions we had on our trip.
“Can you see them, Aunt Dawn?” she would ask. She would point to the distant mountains. “See? They are right there, keeping up with us. Running along the mountains to go to California with us.”
I know she saw them. And in some ways, I began to see them, too. I can still remember them. Horses and children running parallel to the car in the setting sun of the mountains of the desert
In this day and age, there are a million ways to tell a story. We are not limited to moments where an entire clan is situated around a fire, a dinner table, or any other gathering place. We read books, we pass things along to one another verbally, we write in blogs, on Twitter, on Facebook, and we make audio and video stories. I have experience in all of these, and I think if you took all of my stories and put them together, it might be an interesting tale. But I’m curious, would it be one full of delight and wonder, or would it be one full of the same thing that all autobiographies are full of — I’ve had to struggle to make it, I overcame huge obstacles, and I’m now successful at X, Y, and/or Z? I have a feeling, unfortunately, it would be the latter. That saddens me.
When I lived on my few acres in Arizona, Willow would spend a lot of time with me at my house. We were surrounded by others who had horses, llamas, dogs, cats, turkeys, chickens, goats, and many other animals. I had one dog. And while she loved him, it wasn’t quite the same as having a “cool” animal. So she gave me some cool animals.
All of a sudden I had horses. She told me that they were really hers, but that they wanted to stay at my house so I didn’t get lonely. She said they were great friends and they liked to run together. She asked me to feed them and make sure they were ok. She said if they weren’t together, they, too, would get lonely like the horse down the street who chased after cars along his fenced area.
I saw her horses. I encouraged her to share this story with me often. It’s good to dream.
I have always delighted in being an adult who sees the world through rose-colored glasses. Who can believe in things that defy our scientific knowledge. But when I write, that doesn’t come out. I write in a very dry and humorless way, I think. Maybe that is from years and years of academic writing. Maybe it’s from writing and editing in technical and professional areas.
Willow and I went to many movies together. It was rare if we didn’t come out and imagine living within the space of that movie. My favorite, though, was “The Spiderwyck Chronicles.” We had read all of the books before going to the movie.
After that movie, she kept asking me if I saw faeries. She told me that they were real, and that if I was a true believer, I could see them, too. I told her that I was sure I did, but it was when the sun was setting in the grasses and they sparkled in that golden light.
She said I only half believed. If I really believed, I’d see them all of the time.
Maybe I do, and I didn’t realize it until that moment.
But that’s boring! Really. Sure, I can make a set of instructions that will wow you, and make it easy for you to program your VCR / DVD player / computer / rice cooker / or any other thing you want to program. I can do that. It’s easy for me. I’m good at it. But is it fun?
“My friend and I are witches,” she said to me.
“Witches?” I asked. She nodded. This was not long after we had been to see book 4 of the Harry Potter series, and she was in the middle of reading them with her family.
“We can cast spells, but they are only good spells. We can make you a witch, if you’d like. Do you want to be a witch?”
“More than you know.”
I’m thinking about this because I recently had student tell me that maybe I should be a creative writing and/or digital media instructor instead of a technical and professional writing instructor. I think this is because I emphasize creativity. Don’t give in to the boring, I suggest. Try creating your resume on a website, a video, a wiki, or anything else you can come up with. Correspondence? Oh, yes…what do you have in mind? Using Twitter or IM’ing? Texting, maybe? It doesn’t have to be digital. Use your imagination.
We turn on Van Morrison and The Chieftains. Willow and Justice have spent the night and we’ve just finished breakfast.
“Let’s put on a show!” she exclaims.
I smile. I remember when I did that with my siblings and cousins. The adults would politely sit while we play-acted or did ice skating shows for them.
“What would you like to do?”
“We’re dancing an Irish jig!” she yells. She starts kicking up her heels. Justice joins in. I join in. We’re dancing so hard and fast that we’re all gasping for breath. But we’re smiling the whole time. Perma-smiles that make our cheeks hurt.
We’d collapse in a heap, hear a new song, and jump back up, giggling wildly.
I am 41. They are 4 and 9. But that didn’t matter. We were having the times of our lives.
It’s not that easy, I’ve found. Somewhere in between childhood and college, students lose the belief that their creativity is important. I want them to believe. I want them to know that that side of them is important, too. That creativity will go a long way in a job.
I hope, for their sake, and for ours, that they can see where the faeries play. And to cherish that sight.