Storytelling 106: 5 times in a day

Here’s a Storytellers’ Secret: if you tell a story you want to remember five times within 24 hours, the story is yours. The trick is who will listen to your tale?

When we embody a story, it uses all our senses plus our reading of our audience to embed it into our cells. Gesture, facial expression, patterning of words, repeated refrains, all assist in embodying the story. This resonates far deeper than memorising a story (which we would never do, would we?). When a story has been taken into cellular memory and each movement in the tale gives rise to the next part of the story, we have the story’s soul.

Every Storyteller I know, including myself, has been asked if a story they have told is true. Every story holds an element of truth. It is why different stories resonate and stay with us. There is something in the tale that is true for us. When we tell a story and it resonates for our audience, we can feel it. It is a moment of intimate connection, where we are one.

Storytelling is physical but it’s impact is non-physical and why it can resonate with your audience (this leads into philosophical discussion, which storytellers love). When practicing a story, it can be difficult to find an audience who will listen to your tale five times in one day. If you have obliging friends and family, use them. Their reactions to the story will assist you to refine it and take it into your cellular memory.

What if you don’t have people who will listen or feel too self-conscious to ask? I know I will sound somewhat pompous here but, put your ego aside. When I tell a story, it is not about me. Yes, I use my skills and talents and mostly my own stories. However, I tell particular stories because I feel an urge to tell them. Storytelling is a calling, it is the story that is important.

I once was asked to perform for the Association of Relinquishing Mothers. As an adopted child, a foster carer and permanent carer, I felt I was the person to choose and perform these stories. I would have passed the gig onto someone else if I had not felt strongly about it. I carefully chose stories where the child in the story was encouraged to be her very own self, despite any opposition, by the parents who had care of her. It hit the mark. (If you want to know more about me as a parent and carer, read the blogs under Parenting, Introspectives and Musings.) This is an example of why I feel Storytelling is a calling.

Back to the question, what if you don’t have people to listen to you tell the tale? Record it, listen to yourself, re-record, listen again five times. If you listen with how the story sounds and how you want it to sound, embellish the parts you wish to stand out, you will have a story to remember. At your first opportunity, tell your story to another human (dogs and cats get distracted). Ask them what they hear in the story and never tell your audience they are wrong. People bring themselves to art and see what it is they do and in the case of stories, hear what they hear. They do not have to hear what resonated for your, your truth, they get to hear their own.

Now you know how to choose a story and remember it, it is time to begin. Let me know how you go.

Who knew? An Introspective

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This is Jeremy Giraffe. I painted him after drawing him over and over. I didn’t know I could draw or paint, until this year.

It is interesting the things we convince ourselves of. I did art at leaving level for high school but had to ditch it before my Year 12 exams (that’s another story). I was firmly convinced that I did not have any style or ability.

This year, I began working therapeutically on my ‘ishews’ and started collaging, drawing and painting as part of the process. I am trained as an holistic counsellor, using art and craft as means to process work (I also use stories) so it was a logical follow on for me. I also discovered a Facebook page called 52 Week Illustration Challenge where artists of differing abilities contributed their take on the word of the week. I joined as admirer. When ‘giraffe’ rolled around, I thought to myself, “Self”, I said, “I’d like to draw a giraffe.” So I gave it a go. I looked at lots of images and no, my painting could never be described as photo-realistic but I really like him.

Emboldened I began drawing other animals. I haven’t got much past their necks yet and did you know that ducks can look very sad if you give them a big beak? I like quackers. I like animals. My drawings and paintings are cartoonish and not at all complicated when compared to my zen tangled doodles (that sounds rude, doesn’t it?) but I enjoy the simplicity. I now have ducks, emus, wombats, echidnas and trees. Yes, I really like trees too. None of them are spectacular but all of them have personality and feeling and isn’t that what art is about after all?

Jeremy has a rhyme, so do the others although some are being a little coy about revealing theirs. That is the storyteller in me, can’t be helped. I’ll pop them into a book for my grandson. I’ve already done him one book, something about fart-bubbles, he likes it, and now he’ll have another. What else would I do with them?

I am currently painting and drawing a peacock. His name is Pomjoy Pobcock, who knows why. I’ve learnt about stretching paper when it’s painted so have prepared the background and having perfected how I want the feathers to look am ready to paint and draw. I need more art supplies. More! More! I have a studio. It’s not full yet. I spend hours in there with little to show but smears of paint and a happy disposition. Think that’s all worth it then. Haven’t cleaned the floors for a few days but they’re not going anywhere.

Next year I am taking on the 52 Week Illustration Challenge and seeing what I can do. Might have to paddle fast to keep up, some of the artists are extraordinary and some ordinary. I think I’ll fit right in.

I wonder now about my decision so long ago that I was not an artist. I do not aspire to an exhibition or have any delusions about my abilities but I am having fun and I am able to share a feeling with my work. It has made me wonder about what other things I decided I could not do that might be worth trying again.

In the meantime, enjoy Jeremy, watch out for Pomjoy Pobcock and when next you come looking for me, check my studio first.

My old Sofia

My old Sofia

Seventeen years ago, in forty degree Celsius heat, while painting the hallway of our new house, I met a tiny ginger kitten. She was small, fluffy and curious and held in the hand of our new neighbour who explained the person she had bought her for didn’t want her. Didn’t want her? I tore my enraptured eyes away and looked at my partner who shrugged, then the kitten was mine.

What a kitten she was. Sofia I named her, which may seem unusual for a fluffy kitten (it means ‘wise’) but she did seem to know how to get herself into trouble. I enjoy my animals and they appear to enjoy me. This small fluffy creature was no exception. My older cat, Mr Wicca, was not impressed but my kelpie was. Whenever Mr W growled or threatened her, my kelpie would run to the rescue and poke him with her long hard nose. I am quite sure the kitten set up a few of these instances for try as she might, she could not win over Mr W. She was compensated by the hours spent snuggling up on the dogs’ bed, to Sunny Girl’s delight and the other dogs’ disgust. None of them were allowed to touch her until kitten hood had worn away and Sunny lost interest.

Until then, Sofia explored everywhere and pounced upon everyone, sure of her welcome or protection. The only space Mr W had was curled up next to me on our bed. That is until the day Sofia finally managed to climb up the bedcovers to reach the top. I have never seen a kitten quite so delighted with herself. Mr W stiffened and stopped purring on sight of her. She pranced up the bed and was so pleased that she began grooming his cheek. Mr W relaxed slightly. Sofia got carried away with her success and excitedly began grooming him more and more enthusiastically until she was so overwhelmed that she bit him.

It took years and his final illness before she won him over. Sofia was ever convinced that everyone was her friend, except the cats next door and my friend’s dog who chased her to the top of the shed. (I still don’t quite know how she got up there.) She was never quite the same after that.

My bath time held interest for her. As I relaxed she would jump to the side of the bath, walk out across my shoulder, down my side to my hip. There she would sit and I would laugh. As I laughed, the water vibrated and moved. Ears and whiskers pricked forward, Sofie would bat at the water and I would laugh harder, the water move more and eventually she would be elbows in and I would be slightly hysterical. I would roll her back to the edge for her own safety.

I have never known a cat to enjoy water as much as my Sofie did as a kitten. The ground level bird bath often had leaves on the bottom that I would dutifully clean out. Sofie liked to get to them first and up to her shoulders in the water, she would chase the leaves across the bottom. Funny kitty.

When Mr W died, we were inconsolable, Sofia and I. She had spent the last two years grooming him and curling around him gently, lending her warmth, communing with him in the sun in the garden. Only by herself would she play. Like the night the last of the sun coincided with the front lights and tiny insects danced in the beams. Sofia, up on hind legs, danced through the swarm, batting at the insects, hopping across the lawn.

Sofie was my co-conspirator in many things but particularly in our efforts to rid ourselves of ugly teapots. I love teapots, the round kind. Even though I would say, please don’t give me character pots, guess what I got? I lined them up along the edge of the high cupboards where Sofie liked to sprawl and one by one she stretched and pushed them down. Cats have a strong sense of humour and Sofie was amused by the smashing of the pots. Ears and whiskers pricked forward she would look over the side of the cupboards to where the pot lay broken on the floor. I’ve never known a cat to look as pleased with herself as my Sofia.

She was not pleased when two kittens came to live with us. She did not like them. She made sure her displeasure was known. Even after over a decade together they are still not friends. None of them are young but my Sofia is eldest of all.

Seventeen years old, skeletally thin due to a thyroid condition, she is still happy, amused and relaxed. She will insist that I sit in my chair and lean back so she can sit on my shoulder and chest and purr into my ear. She loves me my Sofia. I am her source of pleasure equal to a cushion in the sun and sometimes better. She doesn’t go far anymore, once my great adventurer, and she makes sure she is home when I am home.

In her twilight years I will give her everything I can for I have loved every moment she had chosen to be with me.