Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Storyquote: The beginning of wisdom

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”
― Socrates

(c)2013 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Quick note from the road

I've been on tour all month, it's exciting and exhausting. This week I've been in Coffeyville, KS, telling stories to elders and students. There is a lot to think about here, but I wanted to share one moment with you, something that validated the fatigue and road food.

I was telling stories to high school students today. One asked if this was my real job, how I do it. I told him that I worked in a day job for many years and told stories at the same time, then I decided it was time to quit and see if I could pursue my dream full time.

He replied, "Wait, this is it? You don't have another job? And  you're making it work?"
"Yup. It's hard and scary and one of the best decisions I've made."
"Man. That's the bravest thing I've heard all day. Someday I'm gonna do something like that."

Yes! One down, about 5 billion to go.

(c)2013 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Things I have seen in Coffeyville

I'm in Coffeyville, KS for a week, telling stories to elders and high school students. There is a lot to say about it, but for now let me share some images. 

- the empty downtown, bronze in the evening light, with empty store fronts that clearly thrived in the 1940s. Now the pool hall and video game store are lively, and even this is a slow-motion kind of life. 
- the very long beard on the man three tables away in the cafe. No hipster irony, it's been like this (I'm sure) for decades. 
- the friendly waves. 
- the sky, bright and grey. This land remembers flood and drought, locusts and plenty. It is as though the dust decades ago scoured time away. 

Creative Commons License

Storyquote: How complicated it is

"Of course that is not the whole story, but that is the way with stories; we make them what we will. It’s a way of explaining the universe while leaving the universe unexplained, it’s a way of keeping it all alive, not boxing it into time. Everyone who tells a story tells it differently, just to remind us that everybody sees it differently. Some people say there are true things to be found, some people say all kinds of things can be proved. I don’t believe them. The only thing for certain is how complicated it all is, like string full of knots."
— Jeanette Winterson (Oranges are Not the Only Fruit)

(c)2013 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Storyquote: Magic things

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
― W.B. Yeats

(c)2013 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Storyquote: Don't stop questioning

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
― Albert Einstein

(c)2013 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Monday, September 2, 2013

Some thoughts on free speech, bigotry and living in a new place

By and large, I am delighted with our move to Kansas City, Missouri. My beloved is much happier in his job, where he is creative, valued and challenged every day. I have leapt into building my own business as a storyteller, writer and consultant. We have met many wonderful people, we are making friends, we are happy. The Midwest seems to be treating us well.

But there is history that can't be escaped. In the urban Northeast, it's possible, though not easy, if you are white to pretend the U.S. is close to post-racial. What's easier is to be outraged at the things that are happening elsewhere, rant and rave but do nothing. The compromise many of us make (those of us who pay attention to these things) is to try to effect change, but do so from a place of little risk. It's easy to rant and rave, protest and march when the worst you are likely risking is a few days in jail.

Here in the Midwest (and likely all over the country outside of big, integrated urban areas) bigotry is often more visible. When we moved here, a friend told us to avoid a certain part of Missouri because it proudly bears the nickname "Little Dixie." Okay. Little Dixie sounds pretty scary to a mixed race couple, one African American, one Jewish. We would avoid Little Dixie. We would avoid the rural South. We would be smart and be safe and could still be outraged, rant and rave and try to effect change from a place of safety.

This was challenged when a rodeo clown at the Missouri State Fair put on a Obama mask, placed a broom so it appeared to be sticking out of his rear, and taunted a bull while the announcer asked if anyone wanted to see Obama get it. The crowd roared.

We heard about it. And we decided to go to the fair anyway, be visible as a mixed race couple, and try to effect change simply by not being afraid. We weren't the only mixed race or non-white couple there and we weren't the only ones holding hands.

Not too hard, not too scary, not too unsafe. But certainly more out front that we'd had to be in Boston.

I need to digress for a moment. I believe in the First Amendment, that freedom of speech is vital to a functional democracy. And so, when I heard about the rodeo clown, I was disgusted but didn't object to the parody. This is protected speech. Even if I don't like it, it wasn't illegal.

So, when we drove by some people having a picnic, we knew that they had a right to be there. And we had a right to drive away as fast as we dared when we saw the two large Confederate flags, the shorn hair, the black leather vests. We saw symbols in a language we don't want to know but have to recognize. As we drove away we passed a Methodist church, an Assembly of God church and a Baptist church and we both wondered how many of those people attended these churches.

Once we were far enough away, my sweetheart said, "This is what the Freedom Riders saw. They saw evil and it pursued them past the house of God. And even in those houses of God they wouldn't be safe."

We kept driving through the evening light and I know we both were watching for headlights behind us, even though we really had nothing to fear. The people at the picnic hadn't noticed us among the many cars passing them.

I am not trying to compare what we experienced to what the Freedom Riders did. We remained safe. We remained quiet. We came back to our urban home where we can rant and rave, protest and march, safely.

But it's different here. History is much more present, in the air we breath, in the stickers we see on the backs of cars, in the churches we pass where we might not have found sanctuary. I find myself thinking more and more about the past, as I move into this new part of my life. And I am so grateful for those who have gone before.

I am so grateful and, in seeing things like those flags, the picnic, the kids playing under the watchful eye of parents in black leather, I stand up a little more. I don't need to be as brave as the Freedom Riders, but I, too, have First Amendment protection that I can and will exercise. I'm doing so right now. I just need to learn the language of living in a new place.

(c)2013 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
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at
Related Posts with Thumbnails