Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Animals and story

I've been thinking this morning about the importance of the role of animals in story. For some people, particular animals have special signficance (for example, for me, seeing a cardinal is like a valentine from God). Others tell stories about the times in their lives by the dog they had ("Back when we had Mitzie...") or by the age of their pets ("When the kittens were little...").

The types of animals may also say something about the nature of the storyteller--not to generalize too much, but a person who loves her iguana is used to being an "outside the box" kind of person; a person who loves fish may be an introvert. :) These are all wild speculations, but it's a fun thing to notice. We love our pets and generally assign our best qualities to them. (Of course we may also project our less stellar tendencies--stubbornness, passive-aggressive behavior, jealousy--onto them as well.)

But as story listeners, asking about and receiving what others have to tell us about the loving animal friends in their lives may be a colorful path worth exploring. And at the very least, it's a great ice breaker. :)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Get together with other storytellers and listeners

I received a call for proposals from the NSN National Storytelling Conference 2007 yesterday. This year's conference is "Storytelling: Reflecting Our Past, Creating Your Future," and it will be held July 12-15, 2007 in St. Louis, Missouri. Here's the conference vision (I'm copying this from the email I received):

"The NSN National Storytelling Conference 2007 in St. Louis seeks to provide a meaningful, dynamic, and personally relevant experience for storytellers, story listeners, story users, and story advocates through a rich array of programming sharply focused on these aspects: critical review of the storytelling movement in the United States; the roles and responsibilities of the storytelling constituency, leadership, and alliances in the artistic, private, and public sectors of our society; expanding and increasing the value of storytelling across artistic/cultural/social/political/corporate/technical boundaries."

Wouldn't it be amazing to share a few days (and lots of stories) with hundreds of people in the helping professions who understand and work daily with the power of story? Here's the link to the conference info: Drop me a note if you plan to go!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Traveling together over familiar paths

So much of our lives joins with other lives--lived eons ago and to be lived in the far-off future. The themes and stories that travel with us are paths that have been traveled by others before (an idea Jung really brings home to me). We connect through story--each of us lives out this sacred, symbolic, and literal quest in the experiences of our lives, our thoughts, actions, decisions, avoidances, circumstances, tradegies, achievements, illnesses, joys, and creations. We started somewhere and we are headed somewhere. We are currently exist--and continue to move toward--somewhere in time, somewhere in space, and most importantly to me, somewhere in conscious self-understanding and loving connection with all living beings.

This poem by Robert Bly really weaves together some of the familiar paths we walk, perhaps one by one, perhaps together. When I read this, I see that the ideas we use to categorize and separate--dividing life into generations of past, present, and future; separating mythological and historical lives as though they had different levels of value; or holding reverence for expressions of nature but not so much for human expression (or perhaps the other way around) are arbitrary and unreal. It's all story. You live it. I live it. We connect there. And that's where the healing, regenerating, and forward-moving power is found.

It must be that my early friendship with defeat
Has given me affection for the month of August.
The potato fields belong to early night.

So many times as a boy I sat in the dirt
Among dry cornstalks that gave assurances
Every hour that Francis has his ear to the night.

Columbus's letters tell us that we will receive
The gifts that mariners all receive at the end—
Memories of gold and a grave in the sand.

The shadow of a friend's hand gives us
Promises similar to those we received from
The light under the door as our mother came near.

Each of us is a Jacob weeping for Joseph.
We are the sparrow that flies through the warrior's
Hall and back out into the falling snow.

I don't know why these images should please me
So much; an angel said: "In the last moment before night
Brahms will show you how loyal the notes are.

[Source: From the book, My Sentence Was a Thousand Years of Joy, by way of Writer's Almanac.]