Building a Fire

I learned to tell stories around a camp-fire, on the edges of the desert in the western plains.

At day’s-end, you sit at the fire, to eat and listen. When you are very young, you listen quietly, chewing the words you hear in your mouth, watching the embers flying into the sky. Seeing the old men and women pointing at the sky, talking about the names of the stars or their patterns or those who have left to walk among them
As you get a little older, your voice becomes a little louder, and your laughter is as loud as the birds that call the twilight, and your sighs join those of the wind that drives the bitter sand into good water. Your eyes catch those around you, and in the dark you see them likewise smiling and sad.

After you return that first time from the far wells, one of the story tellers turns to you, while recounting the journey and seeks correction on a point of detail. Many eyes turn to you, and you nod holding your breath secretly inside.

In your own time you chance a comment, aware of the reaction of those around you. You learn the wisdom of respect, the value of an unhurried thought and the pleasure of being caught in the embers that swirl around you, drawing you tighter into the companionship of the fire.

You have learned the pattern of the story tellers, and now add your own voice to their work. Embellishing or challenging stories, questioning or confirming, becoming a story-teller yourself. Building the fire and feeling the flames on your own cheeks.

I learned to tell stories slowly. I listened to the stories told by others. Sometimes i laughed and sometimes i cried. I learned to make them see me, just like around a real fire. In my own time, i started to write short comments to express thanks or ask questions, just like around the real fire. Sometimes i was ignored, sometimes i was acknowledged, just like around the real fire. In time my short comments became their own small stories.

And that is how you build the fire.

[Many people i speak to tell me they do not write. They tell me that they cannot write: not a recipe, not a reminiscence, not a valediction and not a victory speech. Yet, one day, your turn will come. Another story teller will turn to you, and you will find yourself speaking.]


Anonymous said…
One of the most memorable posts I read from you on G+ years ago.
You have rewritten it and over time your story telling has become even more captivating. Reading this makes me quiet.

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