A Season of Stories

The first snow has come and gone, a story filled with treacherous roads and power outages. Thursday we drove through snow packed mountains on our way to Thanksgiving dinner, a classic “white knuckle” drive even though the snow had ceased to fall. Sunday marked the beginning of Advent, and this afternoon I put aside work and began putting up the outdoor seasonal lights.

Winter_DrivingDecember is a good time to draw a chair up to the fire and carefully listen to the unfolding narratives. In the dominant culture the Christmas story takes center stage during December, yet there are other stories abroad in the land. For many Indigenous people in the North, this is a time for sharing traditional stories. These are culturally specific narratives, often sacred, that are owned by a tribe, clan, or teller. Frequently these are stories that can only be told on dark, thunderless, winter evenings.

There are personal and family tales as well. Over Thanksgiving weekend Jennie’s family shared many stories, stories drawn from throughout her complex family. There were present day narratives and stories of those who have passed into spirit. We were reminded that stories form the bridges that carry knowledge and vision from the past into the unknown future. They are the structures that allow us to understand ourselves as standing firmly between generations, that give us identity in the wide sweeping context of human struggles and joys.

As we sat together, four generations of people who care deeply for one another, we remembered others who now walk in spirit, and wondered about those yet to come. Those of us who are older looked to the true elders for guidance about gracefully meeting the challenges and hardships of aging. The new parents and step-parents consulted with their elders, curious about the repetitions and differences that mark child rearing across the generations. Very often everyone spoke at once, leaving one to wonder who might still be listening. Even so, there was a graceful flow to the conversation, a rich texture to the building narratives.

We humans are the stories we hear and tell. It is this recognition that encourages us to hold dear the stories we are offered, and fuels resistance to negative stereotyping. The small, storied, moments in our lives and the grand cultural narratives teach us we are more than we seem. They remind us we are the embodiment of the earlier generations and the cultural heroes. It is this realization that we are, in some intrinsic way the Holy Ones, that we call forward when we share our lives with the young, or conduct healing ceremonies; in a profound, mysterious, way, these two activities are one and the same.

What are the stories you hold sacred? Are there any you would care to share with us?

 

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12 thoughts on “A Season of Stories

  1. So beautifully written, Michael. It moved me – by putting into words those thoughts I have been wrestling with. I didn’t hear many family stories; it was like family members didn’t know how to, or wouldn’t, tell family stories. Now I want to tell our family story from within this void. Maybe that is our family story.

  2. I agree with the two comments above. Stories matter-I am always mindful that they can be lost if I don’t pass them on, either orally or in written form for when my children are older. There is so much lost already, I have learnt this lesson.

    • Andy, Yes, the loss of stories is indeed a tragedy. Yet, we are always creating new ones.That appears to be our role as humans in the world.Still, having those stories from the elders does help us to place ourselves and our lives. Good for you to be learning them.

  3. thanks Michael for sharing your thoughts that resonate with mine. Being a storyteller, i deeply feel to share the narratives that run in my blood as well as the newly learn t ones and I feel a connect with them who are passing on the tales to the ones who have gone around the sun in less numbers. my warmth to you and to all the fellow travelers.
    Indira from India

  4. It just hit me that the dizziness and mobility of postmodern life in the developed world has helped to fragment the nuclear family that culturally on the whole we don’t have generations being able to weave oral tapestries like this anymore. Breaks my heart that my son isn’t growing up near his grandparents. A beautiful post as always, M. Happy new year.

    Diana

    • Diana, I have distant grandchildren. Sometimes Skype helps a little. Oddly, while as a culture we are fascinated by stories, we are focused on them as an arena for competition. Knowledge about behavior and the world takes second place to gladiatorial exercises. That said, yesterday our granddaughter, age 4, was over. My wife sat down with her and read a very engaging book with her. There was magic in the room! Sitting by the fire and reading about night time adventures with the Sand Man brought deep levels of glow into the house. I think the gatherings/ceremonies we sponsor a few times of year draw Native people and non, alike, because people are starving for meaningful ritual, and for good, deep stories. When we gather, we seek to make room for both. I imagine one of the draws to your writing, certainly this is true for me, is your gift for weaving the ritual structure of the every day and the deep structure of story together.

  5. “people are starving for meaningful ritual, and for good, deep stories. When we gather, we seek to make room for both.” Beautiful. And your commendation is startling, Michael. Not a perspective I could have on my writing (meaning not something I could see clearly). But you remind me of the way I’d meant to close my first comment on this thread: your post shows blogging can afford a wonderful way we can reestablish storytelling in community, as blogging’s part of the worldwide WEB.

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