I have a very fragile teacup and saucer that is milky white, but so translucent that if held up to light it looks pale blue. Someone might not even give it a second glance because, after all, it is just a white cup. Yet to me it is extremely valuable. Because it came in a burlap bag of flour, during the depression years. Each time a person bought a fifty-pound bag of flour or sugar, a piece of this china was inside. And slowly, my great-grandparents collected a set of china that way. This cup is all that remains. So where is its value? In the story connected to it.
I tell stories about things that happened to me, or mischief I got into as a child, or the even greater mischief my siblings got into (hope they’re reading this!) and the stories invariably have the listeners rolling with laughter. My husband says I should write the stories down. I hesitate because what makes them so funny is the act of speaking. I believe a lot of the humor would be lost if the voice was gone. Although, in thinking about it, there are those who write pieces that make me laugh out loud, like Patrick McManus. So maybe you can write something where the humor translates, but I’ve never given it a try. I think some of the magic would be lost even though I’m a writer.
On a similar note a woman years ago joined my writer’s group tentatively, feeling she had no right to be there because she was an oral storyteller. Actually she is a painter, who goes to elementary schools and paints watercolors while telling a story to go along with it, and involving the kids in a visual as well as an oral story. It didn’t take long to convince her she belonged.
All of that makes me pause and reflect on the value of story, rather than the venue. A story is something so beautiful, and I feel it doesn’t lose its beauty because it’s spoken rather than read. After all, writers simply carry on the traditions of oral storytelling. We are bards with pens and pencils rather than a mind that holds history in tales. We all know oral storytelling came first. But it is still just as important, and has just as important a place in our lives as the written story.
Pay attention as you move through the day, to how many stories you tell with your voice. If someone asks you what you did this past weekend, I doubt you can simply say, ‘My friends and I walked up the old logging road.’ I bet there’s a story attached.