I really ought to fulfill whatever promise I made to you all in my past post. That is, if you, dear readers, are not all in my imagination. But I really want to tell you a story about the snow. There isn't time now -- I have to go pick up my son at school, and we have the shopping to do and dinner to throw on the stove, and all those mundane home-keeping tasks-- but I want to tell you about it, because it's one of those stories that is part of who I believe myself to be.
Someday I will tell you how I lay on my belly in the snow, at the bottom of the hill. I'll tell you about the redness of my cheeks and the whiteness of the snow, and of the tangle of trees and brush around me in that palm-sized patch of woods. I'll tell you about the game my friend and I were playing as we sledded that day. And I'll tell you about the deer, how they leapt across the smooth snow, so close to me, just in front of the woods.
But not today, I haven't time...
Just start the story. You can start with something tried and true: "Once upon a time," or, "When did it happen? Where did it happen? When and where didn't it happen?" You can even try the popular, "Why, when I was your age..." or, "I'm telling you the truth! No kidding, there I was ...."
The fact is, it doesn't really matter how you start. Except when it does -- little folks love it when there is a clue that we have left this world and have ventured into the world of story. That's what, "Once upon a time," does for us -- it takes us out of the mundane here-and-now and into the world where anything can happen, and often does.
But don't get hung up on that. Just start. Start somewhere. Fall into it, stumble, fumble, stammer, and let the story come tumbling from your lips. Whispered stories are good -- perfect for waiting in lines or sitting through long school performances by older siblings. Giggled stories, stories that make you weep, any of them.
You don't even have to know where the story will take you. Just start somewhere, with something.
Once there was a dog.
Once there was a very ugly house.
Once, when I was your age, I got such a great present.
Your Aunt Sue told me about the time when...
You know, I used to have just that problem, too...
Take a deep breath, and be brave. Making a new story is a little like stepping into the forest, knowing there is a path that leads to Grandmother's house, but this time, it's alright to leave the path, to talk to wolves, to open the basket and eat all the bread. This time, it's your story, and you can do as you wish with it.
If it's someone else's story, though, be kind. Don't put your muddy feet all over the couch, if you know what I mean -- be true to the story itself. There's a good reason why the doves come and peck at the sister's eyes. If a story makes you cringe too much, if you can't stand it, then don't tell it until you find a re
next time, knowing your audience -- who is the story for?
I think that over the last 14 years, I have told something like 1000 stories. This is a rough estimate, and some of those stories were pieces of others. They folded into one another like nesting dolls, linked up like paper chains, or hung like pearls on a string. Other stories stood alone.
Some days, I told none, and others, I told four or five. I would tell a story as part of the main lesson content of the day at school, perhaps an event from ancient history or a legend of a saint. Then at snack time, I would tell some anecdote from my childhood. A disagreement between two children might provoke a little story about two squirrels who couldn't get along, or a sad child might need to hear about a beautiful hidden treasure found by a patient seeker. A raucous moment in the afternoon called for a story about our favorite ship, the Morning Star, and her wise skipper, Captain Rose, who battled gremlins and led his crew to help the merpeople protect their watery kingdom.
And then at bedtime, a story for my own little boy...
I have a treasure trove of characters, plot points, metaphors, and allusions, drawn from every story I ever read or heard. There are ideas from episodes of the Smurfs, names from old ballads, twists and devices from fairy tales, names from children's literature and from childhood friends. Everything is fodder for the storyteller. The squirrels, rabbits, and birds in my tales come from my own observations of nature, with a big boost from Thornton Burgess and Beatrix Potter. Baba Yaga and her chicken-legged hut show up now and then, as do Peter Pan and Sara Crewe. I call upon the old gods in myth and legend to walk through my stories now and then, and I look to the star travelers I loved as a girl to pull my tales into the future.
Dig your own story well. Start by reading, watching, listening. Drink in everything you can. This well is deep, and there is enough for all, but you have to dip your cup in to drink, and you have to tap the source yourself. Listen to Irish ballads and 'fifties pop songs. Read children's books and fairy tales. Watch movies and cartoons. Think about your favorites-- what happens? Who wins? Who loses? What love is found or lost? Go out into the woods or onto the street and watch. Listen to people and birds, cars and kids. Listen to what they say, how they say it. Let the words and pictures fill you up. But you can't just listen. You have to let the stories work on you. That's the first step. Next time, how to start telling...
Good morning, lovely readers! I am at home in my office again, looking ahead to some opportunities for sharing tales with you all. Outside, icy drops of rain are puddling on the ground, and I am expecting a slick drive to preschool to pick up my sweet son this afternoon.
I want to let you all know about two upcoming events.
First, I will be telling stories for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at Heartfelt in Linden Hills, in Minneapolis. Here's the announcement from their website:
Peaceful Stories & Crafts
Hurray--a day off school! Storyteller Sara Logan will tell sweet stories; Lisa will offer two craft options: a wool Peace Dove and/or a yarn “God’s Eye”. The story portion of our program lasts about 30 minutes and will be offered at 10:30 am and 1:00 pm. The crafts will be offered throughout the day, 10 am to 4 pm.
$15. Monday January 21st
That Friday evening, I will be sharing an evening with parents and caregivers:
TELL ME A STORY
Telling stories is simpler than you think--join us for this cozy and supportive evening with story teller Sara Logan as she shares with parents and other caregivers the art of simple story telling. The ability to tell stories will transform your time with your children! Sara is a writer, singer and storyteller; she holds a MSEd in Waldorf Education. Sara uses story, myth and legend to teach and inspire.
Friday January 25th 7:00 - 8:30 pm. $20 per individual; $30 per couple. Please call 612-877-8090 to RSVP in advance.
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I am so excited to share these offerings with you all. I know that some of you are far away. If Minneapolis is not within reach, but you'd like to learn to tell stories, or would like to hear some storytelling, please let me know! Click the “Contact” button above and tell me what you're seeking. My heart is longing to bring story to life for more people.
I am writing from my basement. I live in a house that is about 60 years old. There is asbestos under the tiles in the basement, so we don't move them. There is a thick carpet the color of dark chocolate in the room where I sit, and a mantelpiece and false fireplace made of granite chips. I think they are offcuts from the moument works, like the stone wall around my back yard. There are a couple of places in that wall where you can see ivy leaves etched into the stone. I am surrounded by failed tombstones; life is edged with death. Death defines it.
It is cold where I sit. There is snow on the ground outside under the tall, windblown pines. My backyard is 60 years old, as well. The earth is older, of course, but the trees are not so old. The lilacs are leggy and the flowers are too high to cut when they bloom. The beds are overrun with wild raspberries and creeping bellflower. Next spring, I will prune and plant. For now, the yard is sleeping.
There is a candle lit near me, and it flickers with the rhythm of my typing as the desk shakes just a bit. I can hear the ticking of the Totoro clock on the wall and the gurgling of water through the filter on the turtle tank. This is a house full of beasts. Tiny armored dragons and water beasts, a red-eared hound, three cats with stripes and one black one, and a fierce little fish live among us.
On the nights when I am home and not tutoring and or sharing stories with others, my son eats his bedtime snack and brushes his teeth, says goodnight to my partner, and goes with me into his room. We light a candle, and he bounces onto his bed in the dim, cool room. Every time, the story starts the same way: Once, there was a boy and a cat, who lived in a cottage in the woods with the boy's mama. One day, the boy woke up, and he got out of bed and got dressed. He went downstairs, and there was his mama, sitting at the kitchen table, drinking her coffee.
Every story starts this way, and it is a rare occasion that I have any clue at all what comes next. Oh, there will be breakfast, and the boy will put on his outdoor things, and at some point he will talk with the cat. He may spend the day helping the Queen of the Tinies, a fairy, to find a lost squirrel or to care for the little creatures of the forest. He may play all day with his friends, the little girl (who has no name) and Philip, who lives next door, or with Toby and Jacob across the field. Every story ends with the boy and cat snuggling into bed and falling fast asleep.
As my son listens to my words, I listen to the story itself, singing just under the surface of my thoughts. The stories are not high art. Sometimes there is a moment of pure gold, but often, there is simply a quiet, prosy account of the boy's doings – homey, comforting activities, mild adventures, security and joy. I rarely try to weave in a moral or a lesson, though some days he needs that, and it comes into the story somewhere.
These stories are gone from my memory by the time I leave the room. I try to hold onto some details to provide a little continuity, but I cannot tell you how many babysitters and other adults I have brought into the story, and then, like someone I meet at a party and cannot recall later on, I forget their names and how they were related to the story. It doesn't matter. It's not a novel or an epic poem. These folk along the way don't mean much beyond what they can teach the boy in that moment.
I have been telling stories my whole life. I remember the day I came in from the backyard and told my mother I had been sitting on my swingset, telling myself a story about a little girl named Annika. I was seven. Annika had hundreds of dresses the colors of the sunset, and she lived in a huge mansion. Much of the tale was an account of her wardrobe and her toys.
I told stories to my friends on the playground and on playdates at our homes. I told stories as my audition for the Renaissance Festival at 13, and in college to an audience of magic-hungry students. I told stories every day to the children in the nursery/kindergarten class I assisted, and to the children in my Russian lessons. I told stories every day as the lesson content for eleven years of Waldorf elementary classes. Stories are my language. Stories are my heartbeat, my breath, my bone.
Let me tell you a tale, and then, tell me your stories. Don't tell me you can't, that you don't know any. Everyone knows a story. I want to hear yours. Welcome. Welcome to the story, to our work together. Welcome to breathing, to letting the story come from you and through you to your listeners. Welcome to flow, to the moment of being in the moment, of being in the story itself, relating the actions, the experiences, the sights and sounds and tastes and textures of your story. Welcome home, and welcome to the journey. Welcome to the forest and the mountain and the depths of the cold ocean. Welcome.
We are here to bring story alive for children, and for adults. We are here to bring story to those who are hungering and thirsting for what it is true. If you cannot believe in fairy tales, if the world is a land of hard truths and darkness, and if you never want to see what is vehind the locked door, then perhaps this land is not for you. For me, the hard truths are softened by a hand in mine, the darkness is dispelled by a single candle, and the fairies walk beside me and tunnel below the earth at my feet and float between me and the light of the stars. This is the truth, and this is where I speak to you. Come in. Please come in.
Sara is a storyteller, writer, artist, teacher, wife, mother, and singer living in Minnesota. I write about storytelling, and about living a life with stories.