The Story-tellers

When I was a little girl I went to a story-telling church. They did other things as well, like waved hankies at the hanky song, and played timbrels with all those lovely ribbons, and had bibles with stick-man pictures in them that a smiley man handed out at the door, and collected back up again at the door afterwards. There was a cross, and a table thing with a red velvet tablecloth on it, and probably some preaching as well, but I didn’t have much time for that kind of grown-up stuff. I’d stuff some coloured pencils in my little shoulder bag, and a notebook, so I could draw pictures during the boring bits.

One thing that bemused me about my church though, more so than the timbrels and the fact that the grown-ups had pictures in their bibles, was the Storytelling Bit. I didn’t know if all churches had a Storytelling Bit, but mine did. People stood up in their chairs, and occasionally the preacher would invite them to come up the front and stand near the red velvet table, and they’d say all this random stuff. I always listened to the stories. I liked stories.

Sometimes though…sometimes I swear those people had no idea how to tell a story. They’d get up there and they’d say all about their drinking, and how hard it was to stop, and then their kids stopped calling, and yada yada, and I’d get to thinking “this person has no clue what’s interesting and what’s not”, and then they’d finish with a “but Jesus saved me”, and we’d all have to clap and stuff, even if the story wasn’t very good. A lot of them weren’t. “I couldn’t find my keys, and then I moved my hat and there they were.” Where’s the tension in that? Where’s the drama? “My cat died, and then my aunt gave me another one.” Yeah okay, so I cared about that one. “I used to beat my wife and then this one day I met Brother Peter here and…” Oh boy. Ho hum. Don’t you people know anything about storytelling? Still, everybody clapped like it was the best thing they’d ever heard, and patted the storytellers on the back when they sat down.

I must have been about eight years old when I decided I’d had enough; decided that I could tell a story every bit as well as these people, and maybe I was old enough to put MY hand up in church too. I knew I could do it. I could add life! Drama! Adventure! Mystery! Fantasy! Imagination! And so I did. I knew these stories had to be in the first person (like, you had to say “I did…” not “she did…”, and I had this neat little tie-in about that dude in the bible who had a dream of a ladder with angels going up to Heaven, so it was a good church story even. I imagined it all up as I went, about me waking up in the night and going outside, maybe sleepwalking, and seeing that gate out the side of our house with angels doing loop-the-loops, and how then I realised I wasn’t walking, and that maybe I could do what the angels were doing too, and…

I didn’t get a big clap like I’d expected at the end, when I sat down, which surprised me. I was so proud. I thought maybe they hadn’t liked the ending, or that I hadn’t resolved it as well as I could have. The minister said thank you in a kind of tight voice, and asked if anybody else had anything they wanted to share. I kind of wondered if I’d goofed it, or missed the mark somewhere. I didn’t ever tell stories in church after that, I just clapped politely when I needed to, and went back to my colouring pencils and my drawing.

Tomorrow is Good Friday. That makes today, in the traditional church, Maundy Thursday, and the beginning of the Easter period. Or something like that. I’m sure I’ll be corrected. I love Easter. It reminds me of all the stories, the real stories, of my own life, of the stories I really could raise my hand in church for and say “…but Jesus saved me!”. It’s a time to reflect on what we do it for, the whole chocolate egg and four-day-weekend thing. The whole of Easter, the whole point of the Jesus thing really, is found in storytelling. Jesus told stories, and then, after his death and resurrection, his disciples told stories. That’s why I’m sitting here today, because of those stories.

Happy Easter, my friends. If you find yourself in church this weekend, listen out for the storytellers.

P.S. My friend Patti has been blogging her way through the weeks leading up to Easter by unpacking some of the stuff in the Bible. Her insights are fascinating, and she knows a lot of the historical/cultural details that I’ve not known before. Her blogs are worth a read. In one of her recent comments said this: “The disciples and the lives they led after the resurrection are the the best evidence that it did indeed happen. Before the resurrection, they were hiding away. Afterward, they were fearless, and eleven of them faced martyrdom. Would you do that for a man who came, filled you will hope and promises, and then just died. No! The disciples were changed when they saw their risen Lord.” I’d not thought of it like that before. These are stories that, unlike my little eight-year-old offering, make a difference.

 

 

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Quiet.

I’ve been quiet on this blog of late. I’ve been quiet on Facebook as well, and in emails to people. It’s been nice, strange at first, but not unpleasant. Best of all it’s helped me evaluate my life on social media, who I’m talking to, and why. What am I saying? Why? Is it important? Are things more important that I’ve been ignoring?

Probably. It tends to be the way of things.

But…

I joined Instagram the other day. I don’t know why. A lot of my friends’ posts on Facebook were from there, and I guess I wanted to see what it was all about. It was fun. Photos. It’s about photos, and millions of them. Within a couple of minutes I’d signed up to follow all my Facebook friends on Instagram, and it was nice to see familar faces, new pictures, new stories. It felt funny though, like I’d walked, while snuggling on my couch, into a mad fray of traffic that I would now need to keep up with, and a new market place where I would need to shout to be heard. In that evening quiet I felt like I was shouting again, felt like I was running again; like the noise of a potential million people was suddenly crowding at my smartphone and demanding to be let in. Follow Me! Look at ME! ME! ME! MEEEEE!!

I nearly unsubscribed again. And no my friends, before you ask, it was not your photo of the cute cat that made me feel like that, or that lovely dinner, or the slightly lopsided tree in the park. They were lovely. Your photos are lovely, as are all of you. It was just the volume, really, interrupting my quiet, and, probably most of all, the feeling that I should be adding to it; that I NEEDED to be adding to it in order to be a social being, a social media entity.

Know what I mean? Have you ever felt that, or is it just me? I post, therefore I am.

I’m not ashamed to admit that thought. I know where it started, where the whole Facebook love thing started for me. Introvert in a noisy world. Taught to wait my turn to speak. Know the value of listening to others. Babies in arms, and in nappies. Little sleep. Social media became, for me, a way to be heard, a way to remember, and to remind others, that I do have a voice, and thoughts, and to not pass me by unacknowledged. I’m so grateful for the opportunities to be heard that social media has afforded me, and the friends I’ve made because of it. I’ve considered deleting my accounts from time to time, but always come back to the thought that the good outweighs the bad.

The plum trees outside my window are losing their leaves, and there’s a chill in the morning air that hasn’t been there for many months. Soon we’ll need to stock up on firewood, and pull the heaters out of the cupboards. Seasons change. Autumn is reminding my garden to hunker down for Winter, and I’m doing it too. I feel like my leaves are falling; like I’m stripping away everything but the essentials for a season, to pull in quietly and focus on building the things that are important to me: my family, my home, rewriting my book. Eating soup, keeping warm. It’s a season.

Shhhh. Can’t you hear that gentle hum? Isn’t it nice when things are quiet?

Some food for thought: a couple of articles on social media trends: http://theundercoverrecruiter.com/social-network-overload-info/  http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/the-exchange/social-network-overload-may-be-setting-in-sooner-than-expected-162341702.html

Facing Down Your Fears

When I was a little kid, probably less than four years old–definitely before I started school–some things happened, incidents that defined who I was for decades to come.

The first one looked a little like this:

Source: Wikimedia commons

Source: Wikimedia commons

My neighbour’s dog. Big. Bigger than me. Brown and black, like a huntsman spider, with teeth almost longer than my fingers. Rumoured to be hungry. Rumoured, even, to be hungry for little children! I only saw him a few times, but those times…those teeth…were enough.

The second one was more than a rumour. The second one had a name. It’s name was Snuff, and he was black as night, with a nose pushed back into his skull as if he’d spent his life ramming his snout into the doors of terrified children.

Source: Wikimedia commons

Source: Wikimedia commons

He also had teeth. And legs…long legs, that put his funny squished snout and razor teeth right in line with my chest, long legs that could run faster than my little four-year-old ones, legs that carried those razor teeth almost right up to me, and I just managed to make it inside my front door, screaming, before he tore me to shreds.

I am not joking. My mum looked at him, and she said “Garn!”* in that scary Garning Mummy-voice reserved for scary dogs, and he garned back over the road again and back to his house.

By the time I started school I knew one thing: Dogs were scary.

(I should tell you: a dog lived at my house too, but she was basically some kind of small golden doormat, and I paid her about as much attention as I paid my dad’s work bag, or the washing machine. Not a cat, therefore not interesting.)

There was a third incident too, about the time I was six years old. It was night, or at least evening, in the Winter dark. My mum was walking a couple of friends and I home, and all of a sudden I heard my friend scream…a dog had bitten her in the dark. A small one, all pointy ears and yap yapping, and…teeth. Dark was not safe. The streets were not safe. Not even Mothers Who Garn could protect us from Dogs With Teeth. The truth was out there.

See? Teeth. (Source: Wikimedia commons)

See? Teeth. (Source: Wikimedia commons)

One thing about me: I’m good at working through fears…or, at least, around them. i learned where all the dogs in my neighbourhood were, and I conscientiously avoided them. I’d hear a bark behind a fence and I’d cross the road. No big deal. See? I’m not afraid of fences that bark, or gates with snarling snouts beneath them, I’m just choosing to change my view. I got me a good Garn voice, and I practiced it, loudly, on all the dogs that would dare enter my presence.

And then we got Teddy.

Our dog Teddy.

Our dog Teddy. Also known as “Our Other Cat”.

The thing about having a dog, I’ve discovered, is that they need to be walked. I like this. I love walking. But the thing about walking with a dog is this: they attract other dogs.

Seriously! Streets I have walked in peace for years are now teeming with barks and snuffles and snouts pressed under gates, yips and yaps and teeth…oh the teeth! Not only this, there are dog-walking areas close to us, places where you can take your dog’s leash off and let it have a run around and sniff a few other dog’s butts for a while, while taking in a bit of fresh air and some pleasant scenery. Dogs. Run. At. Me. Here. Big dogs. Black and brown huntsman-spider-coloured dogs. Dogs with teeth. Big dogs, with big teeth, dogs so big that even now they almost come up to my chest…or at least my butt…or…

You know what? I don’t even need to use my Garn voice. I’m not afraid any more.

Yesterday this big dog, this big brown dog with teeth, came right up to me on the path and just stood there, waiting for me to pat it. Just like that. It was smooth-haired, and kind of soft, and it looked up at me with these big happy eyes above it’s teeth, tongue lolling out, just kind of happy to be here, and to be walking, and happy to be patted by me.

I know now that some dogs ARE dangerous, and I need to be careful, and dogs that are allowed by their owners to be off-leash in an area like that probably aren’t. I know now that dogs like to play, and that the vicious snarling black monster that chased me to my front door was possibly only running because I was. I know now that just because I’ve been afraid of something all my life doesn’t mean I need to live my life permanently in fear, but I can follow the example of others, maybe take a few risks, step out a little. Maybe there’s a lot of things I’ve been afraid of that I don’t need to be any more.

Excuse me a minute folks, I’m gonna go Garn me a huntsman spider.

*For anyone without an Aussie accent you may want to translate that as “Go on!”, or perhaps as “Out, vicious snarling dog! Rid the street of thy foul canine presence!”. She didn’t say that though, she said “Garn!”