I was always a child who narrated my play to myself and invented stories with flowery language as I drew. But as I grew up, it seems that lack of use has caused this skill to dwindle.
As a mother, I have come to recognize how much a story created by me, spun forth out of my own experiences and love, can hold and nourish my children. They hunger for the truth that comes from these interactions, from stories that are made just for them. Just as I have tried always to feed them nutritious foods, so too do their souls need to be fed. Spontaneous storytelling seems to feed their spirits in a very special way.
And yet, I struggle with it so much. I struggle with telling a story that is not contrived, but unfolds in a meaningful way. I stumble over words, and with coming up with just the right language to convey a tale beautifully and simply. I long to create images with detail that will go on to live in my children. And it's hard work for me.
And then, on our camping trip in July, something simple, quiet, and marvelous snuck into me. Laying in our tent and looking out at the sky at bedtime with Elisabeth and James, I found for the first time a story that was authentic and true for all of us, a story that seemed to breathe right from the three of us, wove itself into our imaginations, and lived there with us. The story of a chipmunk family who lived in a cozy nest and took a vacation across a field to a tree stump. Oh, so simple. Gentle adventures. An animal family that mirrored our own. Nothing extraordinary. But magical, nonetheless.
Since then, I still find myself struggling with storytelling, but I have a new commitment to learning this art. I've had this book for a really long time, and have thumbed through it lots, but I've decided to finally read it more consciously and really work at storytelling. Yesterday a friend and I were talking about this, and the idea of a storytelling class came up, as well. So maybe we'll try that. For now, I am going to keep working at it. This kind of creating is oh-so-important -- just as important to my children as anything I knit or sew or bake for them.
Most of the photos in this post come from an afternoon last week spent at a park with my sister's girls, telling stories (some made up, some variations on fairy tales, some just pure silliness) and enjoying popsicles together. I learned so much from that afternoon of storytelling with these four little ones.
Storytelling, like parenting (and life, right?) is really about taking chances, putting yourself "out there", and jumping in. Sometimes the results are sheer magic. Sometimes the results are ... well, not. But you always learn something, and it's just about always worth it.