Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Rivers and Mountains and a Moon to Guide You

All my life I've been listening to stories - 
my mother's childhood, strange aunties, my absent father, dead uncles, war and ghosts. Then there's the story of me - how I nearly drowned and came back - and the stories of people whose funerals 
I do. Families are generous when they tell me what they remember and love best about someone.

We keep human endeavour alive by telling stories and we warm ourselves by sharing them. If we sometimes embroider a tale, then that too is an act of generosity, for we like to see rapt attention on someone's face; we like to know that they have stepped into the world we are creating. 

Storytelling is a universal gift. Almost every tale involves an element of problem solving - injustices must be overcome, love has to be won, money found, laughter coaxed, happiness restored. Each story contains a journey, too. 
Aren't our lives like this? And don't we carry our own metaphors and leitmotifs? A recurring theme, a colour, an object, a landscape. These may have tremendous significance for us. Water features hugely in my life. Oceans resonate especially for me, but also a river tells me a lot - how it begins, how it never really ends, where it goes, who and what goes along it...

...and what's in the sack or bag? What lies at the end of the path? How can someone who's been kidnapped get back home? These might be stories about migration; they might have an emotional map; they might be about finding your life's dream, a longed-for child. We sow ourselves into other people's stories - and in this way we learn about ourselves and about other people.

In a noisy, busy world, it's important we stop and listen to the words that are being spoken. They're like the notes of a piece of music. Some words convey a mood like a sympathy chord; others sound strikingly and alone. Listening to a story is an active process. A good storyteller will create space and a good listener will enter freely and begin to add their own depth and detail.

I have been attending a fabulous course of storytelling sessions run by Sef Townsend and Gauri Raje at Fusion in Oxford. Check out their websites to see their work. It has been an illuminating process and I have begun to really expand my knowledge and repertoire. There are many different ways of telling a story and there are many different kinds of stories. The one thing they all have in common though is the human voice. You can hide behind the written word sometimes, I think. There's something very finite about a word on a page - which is why I like poetry, because it is surrounded by white space. A spoken story has that quality. It exists in silence, the pause, the breath, the thought waiting to form, the word that is just emerging. It is nuanced and at the same time, simple. You have to find your own way into it. You have to search for meaning.

Two sessions remain if you want to join in - 
Sunday 16th and Sunday 23rd November 2:30 - 5:00 pm.

There are also two day-long sessions exploring exile and sanctuary.

1 comment:

  1. ' Aren't our lives like this? And don't we carry our own metaphors and leitmotifs?' This is so lovely Pat, I can just about hear your poetic and storytelling voice, Happy writing.wx