Please, don’t stop…

Stories seduce, and I, I fall freely into their embrace. To revel and despair as they bid me, to endure and delight at their mercy. And while they surge on a hidden course too compelling not to explore, there is no obstacle insurmountable. No danger or evil too perilous to face. No broken heart beyond repair. Is it any wonder I go willingly? Or that I tremble as I do?

As lives unfold and faces grow familiar, each dutifully brings voice to all that is good and bad within the world. Mine as well as theirs. Stories told within stories birth the desperate wish for glory and redemption, for restoration to safety and happiness, and I remain their breathless captive. Rage, love and anguish felt on their behalf make me persevere. Page after page, until they are triumphant. Vindication! It was right to believe. Right to hold out hope. With them I am freed. All is right once more, and better than it ever was before. Predictable, and yet… infinitely more complex and surprising than promised at first.

Somehow, mingled with this beautifully sweet exultance, there is a deep resentful sorrow, acrid with the pang of parting. It is, after all, their lives I have lived. Their tears I have shed. Their blood I have spilled, and I do not wish to leave them now that finally they are home. But stories hold no care for what becomes of their audience after the final words are wrought. We do not belong there and are not intended to linger, but rather to move on to the next and be spellbound anew. Such is the nature of stories, and perhaps for most this is enough. More than enough. But for me it is a reluctant extraction back to a reality that seems lackluster in comparison. I do not want other stories. I want more of this one. Please?

Nevertheless, beloved voices must needs eventually fade into an unwritten everafter into which I cannot follow. They remain, together, living perpetually in the grace of their final glory, while I, a mere mortal from a far more ephemeral world, must part. After everything we have been through together, there is no more. And the loss is mine, and mine alone.That is perhaps the hardest part, that sudden sense of loneliness while memories and emotions linger still. Like dying embers of a once life-giving fire, still kindling enough warmth to whispering alluringly to me. That impending void is a chasm of grief that rivals any peril lived with the story itself. Worse, its only ending is Time’s slow numbing of memory and the awkward awareness that it will happen whether I wish it or not.

Still, relentlessly, I covet the seduction nonetheless. There is, I think, a madness, as well as a blessing, shrouded within the gift of imagination. After all, how else can one defend in sound mind the pursuit of an inevitable and heartbreaking end? 

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Please, don’t stop…

Storytelling and its healing power

“Once upon a time…”

That is how this entry ought to start, because what I want to share is a story. A story of being lost and finding the way back home. But too, it is a story about telling stories and why I do, and in that sense I suppose the classical fairytale opening had better wait for next time.

For as long as there has been language, storytelling has been our closest companion. It has kept the ancients alive and the gods close, predicted the future, kept hearts full of hope, enemies inferior and long hours a little shorter. It has born love into legends, birthed more heroes and villains than have ever walked the Earth, and it continues its gentle persistant attempt even today in this digitalised age to teach us that yesterday will come again tomorrow, if we do nothing to heed the lessons of today.

The greastest mercy of storytelling though perhaps is its benevolence in accepting whatever audience is willing to listen. How often have the ears of a teddy bear given solace to one who needed to be heard? And how often have you seen a young child playing alone, yet rigorously chatting away with dolls or animals, convinced of the participation of its audience? Even to the point of giving both pet and inanimate object a voice of their own to respond to the tales shared. Have we not heard of isolated souls driven to mutter stories to themselves in the dark… on a bench in the park or in a house that no longer is as full of life, as it once was?

As bloggers we become merely one more extention of this ageless custom of telling stories to perceived audiences. More or less cohesive ramblings and observations foster questions we rhetorically answer on behalf of those we hope to be listening. The audience we tell ourselves is there. The audience we miss and need so much, we – like the child at play or the lonely old man – are willing and capable of making it up.

Yes, even when no one else will or can listen, we create an audience to validate the need to keep telling all these stories that mean so much to us. Stories that give sound to our heart of hearts and inner voice over the din of life and whatever challenges we face. And so, we become our own flawed heroes, our own redeemed villains.

The past couple of months have given rise to these thoughts in me. Death and severe illness of loved ones, disruptions of a kind that leaves normalcy in ruins and priorities in shambles. In this, I have thought of stories. Of preserving and passing on the wisdom of one generation to the next before it is too late. Of the narcissistic need at times to take center stage and leave an impression on those whose love I so desperately need. Of reiterating and asserting my own presence when life threatens to drown me and wash away any sign I was ever here. Of the wish to connect, to be heard, to touch and be touched… and of existing even in the smallest memory in someone else’s head in the hope that it may just keep me – and my stories – immortal.

The reasons and logic behind all these drives are simple enough to comprehend, and I realised that above and beyond them,… like a single red thread… lies the innate subconscious understanding that without stories, we may just go insane. We need them as much as they need us. They heal us of the injustices done to us, when we can recount our victories and triumphs. They redeem us, when we can tell of survival in the wake of loss and destruction. They release us from the confinement of loneliness. Stories heal the paralysis of fear, sin and shame by calling out the beasts into the light and showing us a way to salvation.

In this I came face to face with my own feeble self. I saw the predictability of my own mentality. The repeating circles of challenge, resignation, resistance, struggle and conquest. I saw the part storytelling takes in that process, and realised I am not all that different from neither the child talking to her dolls, or the old man muttering to himself on a park bench.

Whatever stories I tell, whether they are real or made up, they embody the best and the worst of me – and as long as I can say those things out loud, the weak in me can find solace in the tenacity of the strong. My frailty can find strength in the surge of something greater and more powerful than what holds me back. My blindness can gain sight through the eyes of others, and my muteness can speak the secrets that shame hides both from me and from the world around me.

In telling stories I heal and find my way back home.

“… and I lived happily everafter.”

The end.

Storytelling and its healing power

The Story Told By…

For a while I have been thinking about how when I listen to music I often “hear” stories told, not in the lyrics but in the tune itself. In its mood and “feel”. Stories so vivid I feel as if I could simply pick them up and start writing them out. I’ve often felt the urge to. Felt almost compelled to seize the images that form in my mind and keep repeating them to myself until they are strung on a thread like beads… ready to be worn, admired and cherished.

And yet, I have never done this. Never acted on this urge. I’ve always wondered if others see and hear the same things I do… or whether the stories are different for everyone. It would make sense, I guess, wouldn’t it? But that almost just makes it all the more intriguing to listen, doesn’t it?

So, I’ve decided … that while I am generally taking break from writing at the moment I would make myself take some time out and listen to stories told by music now and then, and that when I do… I’d write down what I hear. If nothing else, then simply to see if the same piece of music holds more than one story.

I’ll post YouTube links to the music I choose when I add the stories I find. Feel free to add your own tales along the way if you wish. I’d love to hear… after all, who doesn’t love a good story?

The Story Told by…

“Celebration” by Secret Garden

I see her standing on the ridge just beyond the edge of town, with the others gathering behind her. A young woman with fiery red hair, falling loosely over her shoulders and a blue cape rippling in the lazy evening breeze. Her hand is clutched around an object hanging in a leather string about her neck, a silver talisman…. A bird of some sort, I think.

They stare towards the sea without speaking. Open faces watching the golden horizon, worn and tired from the day that has almost passed. I count at least twelve… maybe fifteen, and more keep coming to join them… aching backs straightened, hands raised to furrowed brows against the setting sun. At last, two children break ranks and tumble down the slope with their dog barking excitedly as it takes up the chase. An old man leaning on his walking stick, lowers his gaze and wipes wetness from the eyes. A woman by his side squeezes his arm gently and does nothing to hide her own misty stare.

Finally, they break their silent vigil and begin moving through the unshorn grain, down the slope towards the beach. It is little more than silhouettes calling to them from the water. Contours that any of them would know anywhere from the stories and impressions drawn by the fire during those long evenings that would come to an end tonight.

The ships have come home.

They find each other on the sand beneath the new Moon rising, and dance by its pale light. The young woman in the arms of a man at least a foot taller than she, their faces tucked closely together as if they were whispering secrets to one another. A boy of eight hollers at the others from atop his father’s shoulders and giggles with elation, and all around sound the voices of people who have much too much to share to contain it.

The months of worries and separation mean nothing now. The long lonely nights and tiresome days filled with empty horizons are distant memories in these moments now. The ships have come home.

The ships have come home.

The Story Told By…