This blog is focuses on the power of story. That includes the wisdom that comes from paying attention to our family stories. It also includes ways that people put experience into story and how those stories get shaped and used.
Fiction is story that mirrors life. The complexity of human experience can only be expressed as story. That has been true since the start of time or when the first storyteller began the first story, which might be the same.
Parts of this blog include raw material for my memoir, ideas for my fiction and additional musings.
When God created the snake without legs, the hoop snake was having none of it. Taking tail in mouth, he rolled away.
A story told in two sentences is worth noting.
Actually there are many stories of hoop snakes. It’s a legendary creature in American folklore often associated with Pecos Bill stories, but it’s origins might be older. A similar snake in Greek mythology, the ouroboros, was a symbol of eternal return. In Japanese mythology, the tsuchinoko can roll like a wheel and also speak but usually not at the same time. More...
Maybe the Grimm brothers didn’t set out to kill women’s stories, but they did. Here’s what happened:
Rumpenstünzchen was a spinning tale, part of a large number of spinning tales that European women shared while spinning and weaving flax into cloth, an arduous task that was usually done in the evening after all the other tasks were completed (children cared for, meals fixed, animals fed, eggs sold, laundry washed—you get the idea). By the time most women got to the spinning, they were already tired, and so in the company...
I’m on my way out tonight. Dinner with friends. I know how this will go. We will drink a little, eat a lot, and tell stories. At least once during the evening someone will say, “Did I tell you about ____?” I hope we say, “No, not yet,” because the stories that you have to ask if you’ve already told are the ones worth repeating. Dinner with friends equals wine, laughter and good stories. Stories are how we share our lives and friends are the people we share our lives with.
We share our lives by telling about...
Watched the political conventions. Reminded me of Oscar Wilde who famously said: “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.”
There was no lack of passion from the Republicans and/or the Democrats. Speaker after speaker argued that their point of view was the one all Americans (if they’re really Americans) ought to embrace.
All that passion aside, a week later, the only thing I remember are the stories. The mother whose baby needed another heart operation but who’d hit...
Learned today that some scholars think the Panchatantra is the origin of all fairy tales. That’s probably not entirely true, but it is one of the oldest sources. It was written in Sanskrit in the 3rd Century BCE by Vishna Sharma who gathered his material from even older versions. Tales from the Panchatantra have spread widely. Today they can be found from Java to Iceland.
The enduring/endearing power of folk tales is the subject of a chapter in my forthcoming book. When you look for family stories, you almost always find stories of the...
An older friend, retired now, signed-up to volunteer for a charity that required a half-day of sensitivity training.
Next day, he took me aside. “What’s wrong with the word ‘lady?’ My mother would have slapped me up-side my head if I didn’t show a woman proper respect.”
I tried to explain that to be a lady a woman is expected to conduct her life in a ladylike manner, following rules she didn’t necessarily make. There was a judgment implied. Who’s to say which women were ladies and which...
At dinner with friends, my husband mentioned Mad Men. He’s been catching up on that old television series. Our friend shook his head. He couldn’t watch that series. There was nothing about the fifties and early sixties that he wanted to relive. The conversation moved on. Maybe it’s a sign of having really moved on because I was home getting dressed for bed before I realized what he meant. He was a black man starting his career in the 1960s.
I was at a writers retreat in Washington State. Each writer had her own...
Took a class in the ART OF TRAVEL at University of Colorado recently. Not how to travel. The philosophy of travel–why we go; what we report, etc. etc. We talked about explorations, pilgrimages and tourism. In every case, unless someone recorded the adventure, it was lost to history. For example, we learned Lief Ericsson wasn’t the first Viking to arrive in America. According to the Vinland Sagas, he found evidence of earlier Viking settlements, maybe as far south as Hudson River Valley, but no one wrote of those adventures.
Our son announced that he wanted to be an animator when he was five years old, sitting on the couch, watching Saturday morning cartoons. “Fine,” we said, thinking he’d outgrow it. When he was sixteen, still watching Saturday morning cartoons, and still saying he wanted to be an animator, we started to wonder—where do you send your kid to college if he wants to make cartoons?
The answer is California Institute of the Arts, and he was lucky. He caught the leading edge of computer generated animation. Now working at...
“What’s the point?”
“And the moral of the story is . . .?”
Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to think a story needs to prove a point or why bother. These are usually the same ones who think everything has to be useful, or it’s useless.
If you happen to come from a family with a strong religious background, you likely have two problems.
1. That engrained idea that stories have to have morals.
2. A family history so entwined with your religious tradition that there’s no way to...