Friday, February 16, 2018

#storyseeds Friday: What is that smell? Is that love?

If you follow me on Twitter or on Facebook, you know that I'm posting daily #storyseeds, a short prompt for creativity and imagination. I started doing them as much for myself as for anyone else. They make me stretch my mind a little bit each morning and they help me remember that I am a creative being. It's fun, a little therapeutic, and a little useful for others. I'm posting expanded #storyseeds here on Fridays, both as a chance for me to experiment with more complex prompts and as a way for you to have a playful start for the weekend. Let me know what you think, which worked for you and which didn't, and send me any prompts you'd like to see posted! I can't promise I'll use them, but I may very well.

It is the week when romantic love is in the air, whether or not you want it to be. This week's #storyseeds are here to help you think about love in all of its many forms and possibilities.
  1. Embodied
    How do you feel when you love? Do you feel different with different kinds of love? How does romantic love feel compared with loving a pet compared with the love you may have for a really great sandwich?
  2. Described
    Describe the first thing or being you knew you loved, other than a parent. What did it look or feel like? Why did you love it? Do you love it still? 
  3. A seed...
    You fall in love with someone you used to despise. What changed? You? Them? Are the very things you found revolting before now appealing and endearing?
  4. Story-story-go! Tell a love story from the point of view of a physical object or non-human being. A table in a cafe watching a couple fall in love. Juliet's knife. Your dog, meeting the dog of your new sweetheart.
Please post any answers you'd like to share, I'd LOVE to know what these prompted for you!

----------------------------------
www.laurapacker.com 
www.thinkstory.com 
(c)2018 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Monday, February 12, 2018

Storytime: No, I don't have horns, recorded for Racebridges Studios

RaceBridges Studios is an amazing project run by Susan O'Halloran, devoted to using storytelling to build bridges across divides of race, culture, religion, sexuality, and more. They offer a wide array of stories and other free materials to teach diversity. This is storytelling making a real difference in how people interact. Susan is saving the world, story by story.

It has been my honor to contribute two stories to RaceBridges. This is the second.

When I was 13, I visited friends who lived in rural North Carolina. I arrived full of northern urban  misconceptions about the people who lived in Appalachia, and encountered some misconceptions from them about people like me. I was fortunate; I was able to learn from the experience and I hope they were, too.

You can find a variety of teaching materials to use with this story at the RaceBridges site. I hope you find this story interesting and maybe just a little bit useful.


----------------------------------
www.laurapacker.com
www.thinkstory.com 
(c)2018 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Friday, February 9, 2018

#storyseeds Friday: Unknown objects

If you follow me on Twitter or on Facebook, you know that I'm posting daily #storyseeds, a short prompt for creativity and imagination. I started doing them as much for myself as for anyone else. They make me stretch my mind a little bit each morning and they help me remember that I am a creative being. It's fun, a little therapeutic, and a little useful for others. I'm posting expanded #storyseeds here on Fridays, both as a chance for me to experiment with more complex prompts and as a way for you to have a playful start for the weekend. Let me know what you think, which worked for you and which didn't, and send me any prompts you'd like to see posted! I can't promise I'll use them, but I may very well.

In the 1980 film The Gods Must Be CrazyXi (a Kalahari Bushman) and his people find a glass soda bottle. They don't know what it's for, so they use it in as many ways as they can; as a musical instrument, a pestle, a firestarter and more. Eventually this object brings strife to their village and Xi must dispose of it at the end of the world.

We are rich with things. Our culture is largely based on acquisition and use; how much stuff do we have and who has the best stuff? It's not a very healthy way to love, thoughI freely admit I fall prey to it.

What would happen if we changed our relationship with the stuff in our lives? This week's #storyseeds may help you think about all the things we have in new ways.
  1. Embodied
    Take an every day object, like a fork or a pen or your computer keyboard. Look at it carefully, examining all sides. Take in its qualities, from the color and texture, to the smell and any sounds it may make.
    Now write a list of 25 alternative uses for this object. Try to look at it as if you have never seen it before. Could it be decorative? A ritual object? A tool? A musical instrument? A magical item?
  2. Described
    Describe something you own and treasure. When did you get it? Why do you love it? What does it do? How does it make you feel? Who would you give it to if you had to release it? What would make you give it up?
  3. A seed...
    A woman wakes up and all of her possessions have been swapped out for similar but not identical items. 
  4. Story-story-go!Ask someone you care about to tell you the story of something they love.
Please post any answers you'd like to share, I'd LOVE to know what these prompted for you!

----------------------------------
www.laurapacker.com 
www.thinkstory.com 
(c)2018 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Monday, February 5, 2018

Resources: Six websites for traditional stories

The internet can be a dark wood of information. You know what you want is out there but don't know how to even begin to look for it so you wander off the path, get lost, and give up. I'd like to share some of the online resources I find most useful in the hopes that you will find them just as wonderful and have your own moments of illumination in the woods.

Here are six sites I use regularly when I'm digging into traditional stories. Each offers me something a little bit different but I find every one inspiring and useful. Be warned, they are rabbit holes; once you start digging it's really easy to keep going and find some new, unexpected and unasked for treasure. Without further ado and in no particular order, I give you six sites that help me be a better storyteller and folklorist.

  1. Csenge Zalka's Multicolored Diary
    Csenge is a talented storyteller and excellent folklorist. Her blog digs into more obscure folktales from around the world with intelligence, clarity and a healthy dash of humor. The search function works well, so if you're looking for stories on a particular theme, it will help. She doesn't always include the text of the story, so you may need to refer to a book but her bibliographic information is terrific. Her tagging system alone can keep you occupied for days. 
  2. The Internet Sacred Text Library.
    A fairly comprehensive site covering world sacred texts, ranging from religious books to myths to folk and fairy tales. What I have found most useful is their archive of scanned books. Many are very hard to find elsewhere. The site was established in 1999 and isn't particularly modern in its look or usability, but there is material available here that can be hard to find elsewhere. The search function (the giant question mark in the middle of the page (as I said, not modern design) lets you find just about anything you want, though there may be quite a bit to sort through in response to your query.
  3. Sur La Lune Fairy Tales.
    Rather than a broad collection, Sur La Lune is a deep one. They offer annotated versions of 49 fairy tales that then lead to hundreds of variants. You can also buy all kinds of neat fairy tale related items and books here (I don't usually recommend stuff for sale, but they have some really nifty things). The annotations will help you understand where the stories come from and how they came to be as they are. The associated blog offers book reviews of new fairy tale collections. 
  4. Karen Chace's Story Bug.Karen Chace is another talented storyteller who is very generous with her research. She publishes her blog monthly and each post covers a wide range of topics with stories that fit into the theme. For instance, her January post covers empathy, Chinese New Year, (for which she lists 14 world folktales about roosters since we are entering the year of the Rooster), National Pig day (seven stories), husband appreciation day (five stories) and more. Using her search function you can find stories on almost any topic you desire, along with links to the full text of the story.
  5. Professor Ashliman's Folklinks Archive and Folktexts
    These pages aren't pretty but there is a library's-worth of information here. Dr. Ashliman was a folklore professor at University of Pittsburgh and these pages are the resources he developed for his students. He retired a number of years ago, but the pages are archived.
    Folklinks is a set of links to folklore and related resources around the web. It is now a bit dated but may link you to material you hadn't found before, especially if you're looking for international resources.
    Folktexts lists stories by tale type. When you click on a given tale type you find links to stories related to the tale type. It's a great way to spend a rainy afternoon or three.
  6. Terri Windling's Myth and Moor blog.
    Terri Windling is a wonderful and respected writer of fantasy fiction. Her work is based in a deep understanding of traditional material, particularly that of the British Isles. Her blog is different from the other resources here, in that she shares information about her creative process and what inspires her. I have found it inspiring and helpful when I need a reminder that folk material is deep, meaningful, and others love it at least as much as I do.

I hope you enjoy these resources. Please share your favorite traditional material online resources!

----------------------------------
www.laurapacker.com 
www.thinkstory.com 
(c)2018 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Friday, February 2, 2018

#storyseeds Friday: Small animals, signs and portents

If you follow me on Twitter or on Facebook, you know that I'm posting daily #storyseeds, a short prompt for creativity and imagination. I started doing them as much for myself as for anyone else. They make me stretch my mind a little bit each morning and they help me remember that I am a creative being. It's fun, a little therapeutic, and a little useful for others. I'm posting expanded #storyseeds here on Fridays, both as a chance for me to experiment with more complex prompts and as a way for you to have a playful start for the weekend. Let me know what you think, which worked for you and which didn't, and send me any prompts you'd like to see posted! I can't promise I'll use them, but I may very well.

Today is Groundhog Day, that date in the United States on which a poor, hapless groundhog is pulled from its den and forced to look for its shadow. The tradition may derive from a German tradition by way of the Pennsylvania Dutch, wherein an animal, originally a badger, looks for its shadow to predict the coming of spring. In the British Isles it's a hedgehog who looks for his shadow. Alternatively, Groundhog Day may be linked to Brigitmas, which celebrates Saint Brigit, originally the goddess Brigit, whose animal was a groundhog. Her feast day was February 1. Either way, it's a reminder that spring is coming, winter won't last forever, and creative fires should be stoked regularly.
  1. Embodied
    Rough hands grab you and pull you out of your comfy bed. They make you face the light and demand that you tell them if the world will end or continue. What do you say? Whose hands are they? Why do they think you know?
  2. Described
    Would you rather be a groundhog, a badger, or a hedgehog? What would it feel like to live on four legs and close to the ground? Tell me how delicious worms and grasses are, and what it's like living in the earth.
  3. A seed...
    You wake up tomorrow morning and have no shadow. 
  4. Story-story-go!
    Go for it, shadows and all!

Please post any answers you'd like to share, I'd LOVE to know what these prompted for you!
----------------------------------
www.laurapacker.com
www.thinkstory.com
(c)2018 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Monday, January 29, 2018

Ask the storyteller returns!

A few years ago I ran a blog series called #askthestoryteller. It was a lot of fun and a good way to get conversations going about different storytelling topics. I'm relaunching it today, but monthly instead of weekly. I don't think you or I want to have to ask and answer questions quite that often!

I'm starting with a question raised by storyteller Jennifer Cayley. She recently lost her beloved partner and asked me if any traditional tales were helpful to me as I moved through my grief over losing my husband. I am naming her with her permission and gratitude.


Let me start with my deepest condolences on the loss of Jan. I am so very sorry.


Traditional stories have been helping humans understand the tough things in life for as long as we've been human. They deal with love and loss, life and death. It is no surprise that these stories have endured so well; they help us know that our experience is part of the universal human experience and that we are not alone.

That being said, I struggled with traditional material in the months after Kevin died. While many folk and fairy tales deal with bereavement, most aim for some version of "happily ever after" and I had no faith that such a fate was available to me. Even now, in another relationship, it's an entirely different understanding of happily ever after. A few fairy tales about weeping helped a bit, but the happily ever after repulsed me.

Instead what appealed to me were, and are, some of the big epic stories, in particular Isis and Osiris and the story of Sedna.

Isis and Osiris helped me feel less alone. This ancient Egyptian myth is at least four thousand years old, so it helped me place my loss in the continuity of human existence; as long as we have loved, we have lost those we love. As long as we will love, we will lose those we love. I felt part of a timeline and so less alone. Isis loved Osiris fiercely and, even with her magic, could not fully bring him back to life. This helped me feel less helpless in my inability to alter the course of Kevin's illness.

The Inuit story of the goddess Sedna, while not about a lost spouse, helped tremendously. I think there is something about her rage to live and the implacability of her death that gave me solace. There is also the cruelty of the father's action that reminded me of cancer, so perhaps this story helped me see Kevin as transformed instead of gone. Lastly, Sedna is soothed by having her hair combed and I was hungry for gentle touch.

I kept reading stories and looking for the one that answered my pain, but I found no one remedy. As time has passed, I've found the stories of Koschei the Deathless have been helpful, because they remind me that immortality may not be all it's cracked up to be. I have also found comfort in some myths of lovers reunited in the stars.

Jennifer, while this is in no way a complete answer, I hope this helps some. I know you will find stories that give you solace and, when you're ready, I would love to know which worked for you.

Readers, what stories help you when you are in dark places? How do you connect with stories and use them to connect with others? And what would you like me to muse on in the next #askthestoryteller?

----------------------------------
www.laurapacker.com
www.thinkstory.com
(c)2018 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Friday, January 26, 2018

#storyseeds Friday: Love, life, and hair problems

If you follow me on Twitter or on Facebook, you know that I'm posting daily #storyseeds, a short prompt for creativity and imagination. I started doing them as much for myself as for anyone else. They make me stretch my mind a little bit each morning and they help me remember that I am a creative being. It's fun, a little therapeutic, and a little useful for others.

I'm going to start posting slightly expanded #storyseeds here on Fridays, both as a chance for me to experiment with more complex prompts and as a way for you to have a playful start for the weekend. Let me know what you think, which worked for you and which didn't, and send me any prompts you'd like to see posted! I can't promise I'll use them, but I may very well.

Since today is National Spouse's Day AND National Big Wig Day, here are some prompts about relationships, cover-ups, and things that shouldn't be that obvious. Please post any answers you'd like to share, I'd LOVE to know what these prompted for you!
  1. Embodied
    You wake up and realize your hair has changed color and texture. Overnight you've gone from one extreme to the other. What does it look like? How does it feel? Do you relish it or immediately buy a hat or wig? How do you explain it to others?
    What if you woke up and found your spouse's hair had changed overnight?
  2. Described
    Think of someone you love. If you have a partner or spouse, think of them, but anyone you have been close to will do. Describe them using all of your senses. Not only what they look like, but their scent, how they feel, the sounds they make, their taste (if appropriate). How would they describe you?
  3. A seed...
    What would you do if you were King of the World for a day, a real big wig? What would you do if you were President and had to work with a deeply divided congress? What is the scandal that would bring you down?
  4. Story-story-go!
    Show me what you've got!

----------------------------------
www.laurapacker.com
www.thinkstory.com
(c)2018 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Monday, January 22, 2018

Storytime: Body and Soul

I thought, in light of ongoing world events, we could use a little Monday morning help keeping body and soul together.

I learned this story from Patricia McMahon, many years ago. We both were attending Tuesday night storytelling with Brother Blue in a basement bookstore in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Those were formative days for me, learning to listen and tell stories from some of the best storytellers around. It was before storytelling had become a buzzword; storytelling venues were few and far between and so this was sacred and rarified time. I went one night every week crammed in with others who were hungry for story. It was nourishing in the deepest of ways.

Patricia was one of my favorite storytellers. Every time she got up I knew I would hear something well-crafted and interesting. For the most part she was working her way through a novel, telling it eight-minutes at a time, but every now and then she'd tell something different. This is one of those something different stories.

Patricia heard Body and Soul from another teller, who had heard it from another teller, and so on. She knew it as a Sufi story and so I tell it as such. I've not been able to find a definitive source for this story, but there is a reference to a similar Arabian story in The Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan: Sufi Mysticism, by Hazrat Inayat Khan. I like the version I learned from Patricia and now tell, because it explains how to best keep body and soul together using tools we all have available to us all of the time.

I hope you enjoy this story.


----------------------------------
www.laurapacker.com
www.thinkstory.com
(c)2017 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Friday, January 12, 2018

Landmines and a different understanding of time

In March it will be four years since Kevin died. From my birthday in October through the anniversary of his death is a minefield of tough dates and triggering memories. I know to expect that now. Then there are the unexpected things that bite me on the butt.


I moved in with Charley last June. You know how it is with a move, it takes time to really be there. We have our first houseguest arriving tomorrow, so we're dealing with some stuff we hadn't touched since we moved in. 


I just found a bag with walkie-talkies in it. I'm sitting here crying over stupid cheap walkie-talkies. 


Kevin died 69 days after his diagnosis; it was brutal and fast. Most of that time, between diagnosis and death, he was in the hospital, but there were a few stints at home. By what was to be the last time he was home, the cancer had stolen his voice on top of everything else. We set him up in a hospital bed in the living room. I slept by him most nights, but I couldn't always be there. We got a pair of walkie talkies so, if he needed me and I wasn't in the room, all he had to do was push the call button. 


By this time the cancer had invaded most of his body and was affecting his mind. He couldn't figure out which button to push, so we put bright green tape on the appropriate button. He was so weak and  dazed that even that was too much to ask. Within a few days he was back in the hospital and a few days later he was dead.


I put those walkie talkies in a plastic bag, figuring I'd deal with them later. 


Is this later? I found them sitting amongst a pile of stuff leftover from the move and started crying. My new love, who is a good and understanding man, just held me. Now they are sitting in their bag on the kitchen table, waiting for me to see if I have the wherewithal to give them away or if they need to wait for a different later.

Time and memory carry different weight after a big loss. It's not as if the sorrow ever goes away or the memories become less tender, but it changes. Right now is later. It is also then. It is also when I packed them up, when I decided to move in with Charley, and 20 minutes ago when I found the walkie-talkie landmine waiting for me.
----------------------------------
www.laurapacker.com
www.thinkstory.com
(c)2017 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year's Eve 2017

I made it. You made it. I know I'm not the only one who found 2017 challenging in all kinds of ways, but here we are. Still standing, even if we're a bit wobbly.

Take a moment to feel that. You are still here. It may be bittersweet, but there it is.



With that in mind, the truth that we are still here, I want to look to 2018. I sent out a newsletter recently with some thoughts about stories and gratitude as the year comes to an end; here I'd like to dream forward. I'm not trying to be a pollyanna - 2017 was really hard in so many ways - but if all I focus on is the anger and frustration I will not create the possibility of improvement.

I'm not and never really have been a resolution kind of person. I know myself well enough to admit that sure, I might make a New Year's resolution, but the likelihood of my keeping it because I declared it a resolution is no greater than any other new start I might undertake at any other time of the year. I try to live my daily life with clarity, integrity and forthright hope. That intention makes resolutions feel a little flat, a little false.

I'd like to look at what I am already doing well and will carry forward. By focusing on my successes I give my self-doubts less fuel. The voices that tell me I'm an imposter have a little less authority. I invite you to do this with me - what are your achievements this year? How have you continued to grow and move closer to being the person you want to be? Please let me know. The more we remember and build our strengths, the harder it becomes to shut us down, to make us doubt ourselves and our motives, to tell use we are less than. You are not less than. Neither am I.

So here it is, a few things I have done well and hope to carry into the new year. What does your list look like?

  1. Self-care. If the last few years have taught me nothing else, it's that there is no way I can create change in the world if I don't take a little care for myself now and then. For example:
    A few years ago I decided I would take real vacations (as a self-employed person my home is my workplace so I'm not good at staycations). I take two vacations a year now, even though it makes me a little crazy to lose the work time. The rest and the break both help me be better at my work and my life.
    I'm better at saying no.
    I have been deliberate in creating supportive networks for myself.
    Sure, there are places where I'm not good at self-care, but remembering the places where I have succeeded helps me think I might do better in other realms.
    I will continue to care for myself so I can care for the world.
  2. Compassion and kindness. These may be my guiding values. If I model compassion and kindness maybe others will be a little more able to do the same. If I treat those I don't understand with compassion maybe the walls will crumble a bit. I've done a good job at this, in 2017 especially.
    I will continue to offer compassion and kindness as a reflex and first option; this is not weakness.
  3. Better work and writing habits, facing the voice of the saboteur. I spend a lot of time telling myself I don't work effectively, that I'm not good at what I do, that I'm faking it all the time. The voice of the saboteur is loud and persistent. This year I have taken concrete steps to build better work and writing habits, and have tried to embrace my own competence. Yes, imposter syndrome still kicks my ass, but at least I recognize it when it visits. This feels like a victory.
    I will continue to do the best I can and will try not to believe the liars in my head.
  4. Using my voice, being less afraid. 2017 was not a year to be quiet, but I couldn't bear to only yell. I've tried very hard to post real information, to have reasoned discussions, and to help others keep going with my #barkagainstthedark and #storyseeds. Plus I have my representatives on speed dial. Additionally, I have found that my best response to fear is to step into it. I am certainly afraid of looking like a fool, being hurt, being wrong, etc, but if I dwell in fear I do nothing.
    I will not be silenced, I will not let fear win.
  5. Loving. I wrote recently that love is the easiest thing and I stand by that. I am good at loving the world, people (even those who frustrate me), and believe that love is not weakness, nor does it mean I get to control that which I love. It is a gift to me as well as to the world.
    I will not stop loving in the face of anger and fear.

So that's my list. What's yours? What shall we celebrate as we gird ourselves for 2018?
----------------------------------
www.laurapacker.com
www.thinkstory.com
(c)2017 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License
True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.truestorieshonestlies.blogspot.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.laurapacker.com.
Related Posts with Thumbnails