Listening: International Day of Sharing Life Stories

Listening more than sharing. Exploring the periphery. Trying to stay out there at my shifting, or, what Seth Godin calls stretching, edges. Listening creatively. I’m celebrating the International Day of Sharing Life Stories.

loose ends

In the slim wedges between work trips, I gather stories. Pulling in nets filled with gleaming, writhing flotsam. With my camera, with my pen, (and now, thanks to Nancy White) with my pastels. Mostly half-glimpses of things that do not fully reveal themselves. Learning to have patience, to fill sketchbooks and journals and draft spaces on-blog. Not to speak out of boredom or dismay or monotoned criticism, but to wait for the nuances, the shades, the deeper insights. To listen.

at the farmers market

To stories of the land: spring wildlife stories of the comings of migrants, nestings, returns from burrows deep underground, wildflower blooms and garden volunteers reseeding themselves according to their whim, not mine. Deaths among the iris. The dopey robin who in spite of Bee and my best efforts did build a nest on the drainpipe just above the grill. Stories that are sharply different this year without Finn. To learn to listen without him.

checking out the dandelion

To stories witnessed from my new bike. I wrote recently about how Flickr’s 365 Photo Group has changed the way I that I take notice of the world. My bike has done the same–I see the small shifts of the season, and details of the landscape I never noticed before in all the many years of living around here. Stories of the nose. Of air against skin. Listening with the whole self.

Stories of deep learning: the adventure of starting a nonprofit: weaving together a brilliant hodge-podge of multi-colored, multi-textured threads and being okay if sometimes they clash, they break, they knot or fray or need distance to see the patterns. Of learning to tell a website story, not a slow-blogging one. Of learning to work in the rich tumble of local rural community instead of the rich security of a college classroom. Of learning to forge partnerships, to listen carefully and constructively and authentically.

Vermont schoolhouse

Stories of other people’s journeys. In story circles in small towns. In my writing group. On blogs, like Jen’s and Beth’s and Dawoud’s, who try to write/think/connnect better than they did the day before, and always always stay true to self. In galleries, online and off, confronted by Picasso’s aim “to give [us] an image of [ourselves] whose elements are collected from among the usual way of seeing things in traditional painting and then reassembled in a fashion that is unexpected and disturbing enough to make it impossible for [us] to escape the questions it raises.” More listening. And looking and, hopefully, seeing. Robert Pogue Harrison writes in Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition, “…nothing is less cultivated these days in Western societies than the art of seeing. It is fair to say that there exists in our era a tragic discrepancy between the staggering richness of the visible world and the extreme poverty of our capacity to perceive it.” (p.114) Balancing on the razor edge of seeing.

Recently, with my Flipvideo, to prep for June talks, I’ve been asking all kinds of people to tell me stories, about “memorable moments from school.” Next, I think I’ll venture into Ear to the Ground-type stories –or having people tell me stories of sounds. Memories of sounds. Smells. Movement. I used to do lots of stories-without-words exercises with my students as a way for them to make language strange and wonderful again, and to encourage them to listen as well as to speak. Breaking away, for a moment or two, from the expected, the safe, the rut of routine that beguile us with comfort and belonging.

Life stories. Live stories. Living stories. Here’s an assortment of stories from and about Digital Explorations if you’re interested (note the brilliant widget Alex created for our gallery)–I’ll leave you with this story, Disturbing the Universe, about life and lives and learning:

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5 Responses

  1. […] Listening: International Day of Sharing Life Stories […]

  2. Oh, gosh. Thank you. Yes, that’s what i am trying to do. To stay true. To reach further. To find the one right word. Thank you for being the same kind of soul, and for noticing.

    • ditto beth — that one word that eludes, but sometimes in its absence leading to a nuance not before known, as we search for the word seeing /heariing/being in new ways …
      i don’t know about an international day of sharing life stories but wouldn’t it be great if we all could hear and tell and show the stories we see and feel and are made up of?

  3. […] by tweets and a blog post from Barbara Ganley, I tried to let my yard tell me a story through photos taken just today. I did not have one in […]

  4. Lovely post. Like you I am trying to tell a fluid web-story of my life. Thanks.

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