Thursday, May 14, 2009

Spring is Sprung

I realized that I have been a bit of a badger, hibernating over the winter and into spring, but now the buds are popping open and the blossom is filling the air with wonderful smells. I love this time of year. The frogs have been singing their hearts out but are now quietening down after the much needed rain. Yesterday I saw a bald eagle not too far from home but failed to get a good picture of it. And we have a ground hog back on our property which is nice until all our own food starts to grow!

Last week on the 8th of May I did a workshop for the New Hampshire Association of Educational Office Professionals (quite a title, but it can be reduced to NHAEOP). Originally there were to be 18 people only in my workshop, but because of requests to attend we added a few more seats and ended up close to 25 of the between 300 - 400 attendees. It was a blast!

We started with some very shy people, but in a couple of hours ended up with about six participants telling some wonderful and hilarious stories. Some of these folks had never told a tale in their lives, certainly not to a group of peers. Using a number of exercises the tellers went from telling a tale of their life, rather flatly in some cases, to telling the life story in a way that had us in stitches. Some stories were about first jobs, some were about embarrassing moments, and some were about fears. One of the organizers admitted to me after that they thought my workshop might be a bit fluff. She planned on popping in to "check-up" on me, but ended up staying for the whole thing and saying, after, that she learned a lot and wants me back! It was great.

I was thinking about Earth Day a few weeks ago and how storytelling might fit. I know lots of tales about Earth and nature, some very spiritual, some promoting honesty and ‘good moral fibre’, but I wanted something to talk about, something a little off the beaten track! Another storyteller, Gregory Leifel, put something on a storytelling listserv which inspired some thoughts in me. As Gregory said, “storytelling is a sustainable, organic, shared and green art form. Stories are entirely recyclable, require little if any energy to generate, often communicate how we are all in this together, and address our challenges with magical spells of thought that bring peace to any world.”

All stories are recycled, be them folk, faerie, or news stories. Some of the stories are good, some bad, some are Just Stories. Each time a tale is heard and retold by the listener it is recycled. The good storytellers (in all senses of the word) hopefully try to tell a story to help others in one way of another. Some ‘good’ storytellers also try to bock the truth and we see that every time there is a war and we are exposed to propaganda of one sort or another. Even ‘story’ stories can be a form of propaganda. Look at Little Red Riding Hood! It is propaganda for little girls to listen to their mothers or else they will end up in more trouble than they can imagine! (Hopefully it is propaganda young people can take through high school, college and beyond.)

By retelling tales we (and here I will refer to mainly folk and faerie tales) are sustaining not only the stories themselves, but also those who listen and tell. Good, healthy family history stories sustain family members. By hearing stories, you are given an insight into another realm, be it an historical part of your (or someone else’s) family history, or the realm of the story, be it mythical, folk, or faerie. The flip side of this coin is when the retelling of stories (news broadcasts) keeps the listener (and/or viewer) in a state of anxiety, putting the general populous into a state of fear - but let’s not go down that road. Stories are certainly organic; there are some tall-tales I have heard which use a liberal amount of fertilizer!

In regards to energy, I have to disagree with Gregory on: “little, if any.” I know that many storytellers, and I am sure I am including Gregory in this, put an awful lot of energy into researching, learning and telling our tales. For me, some stories might take a day or two (once found) to learn, but then take another week or two to hone, and another three or four weeks to polish. Some stories might take months to learn, and a year or more to get to the polished end-product – and quite often that can only be done in front of a live audience. So there is lots of energy, but I liken it to kite flying on a blustery day; or kayaking on a fast flowing river; there some stories that come easy which I liken to relaxing under the sun lifting a drink to your lips every so often.

Some performers sit and tell with their face and hands, some use their musical instruments, some even use puppets, and then there are some, like myself, who move around all over the place (and on a hot day expend as much ‘energy’ as Bruce Springsteen does at one of his concerts)! But that energy, hopefully, comes from good wholesome organic products (and the odd cup of tea or coffee, and bar of chocolate)!

Lastly, Earth Day is all about the world community and what we can do together to make things better. Sharing stories - good stories, stories that promote well-being, joy, love, and understanding to those around you creates a great sense of community.

Gregory's website is:
His children's story book website:

So get out there and share a story.