So Spake Mo…
Stories bend over time. They stretch and twist, they slide and expand to fit their new tellers, the new needs they are brought out to serve.
The Tlingit people of Alaska have assembled many of their people’s stories in
the SaxmanTotem Park outside of Ketchikan. Each totem tells a story. And when
each totem falls, the story is written anew by the next generation’s carvers.
The foot of the Giant Rock Oyster Totem depicts the story from which the Giant Rock Oyster House of the Tlingit took its name.
A carver takes up his blade…
In a terrible tragedy, a young man of the house lost his life when his hand became trapped between the shells of a Giant Rock Oyster and he drowned in the in tide.
A new carver takes up the blade…
Once long ago, a boy wandered out in low tide and spied a pearl of great beauty in the glistening bowl of a great rock oyster. The exquisite pearl filled his heart with greed. Thinking himself clever, he sought to steal the pearl from the oyster’s maw. Snap! The oyster clamped it shell over the boy’s thieving hand and held him as the waters of the rising tide overtook him.
The carving blade passes to a new hand…
In a time not so different from today there lived a little boy who did not listen to his mother. Time after time she warned him against putting his hands where he could not see. And finally it happened: the boy reached into murky waters and disturbed the rest of a giant rock oyster. The boy shouted when the oyster clamped its powerful shells over his disobedient hand. His mother came and gave him his choices: he could either cut off his hand to free it from the oyster or he could try to hold his breath through the incoming tide. He chose to hold his breath
and perished in the waves.
The story transforms with its tellers, its tellers transform with the telling. The story binds the listeners together through the generations, through the moment when they are reminded where they come from, who they are, who they were
So Spake Me…
We are losing stories.
We complain about lack of community. And yes, parents work more. Yes, technology creates a greater divide between people. But without a common core, without a common set of stories it is very difficult to create that sense of belonging that binds, that sense of belonging that drives people to set the report aside, to close out of the online games and step outside and join with their neighbors.
Shared experience creates stories that bind people. Just last night I stayed up until the wee hours reminiscing with a childhood friend I hadn’t seen in ten years. We
laughed, we rolled our eyes and shook our heads and marveled at how the distance
of decades and new experiences had changed the stories we shared. Old stories
teaching new lessons over espresso and cheesecake.
We all love those tales of the glory days. We love to know there are people who know where we come from. Then imagine how even more powerful yet are those stories about our roots, weaving together far-flung families, drawing together even large and diverse communities.
So take a moment and learn the story of your family (I’ll bet its fascinating). Learn the story of your community and the brazen impudence that made it possible.
Then share it.
And see what you create.
The Story of Place