Sunday, May 26, 2019
Summer: a Focus on Story
As somber a remembrance as tomorrow's holiday is meant to be, people can't help themselves; they see Memorial Day as the official start of summer vacation. For many—at least those in warmer climates such as my adopted home state of California—the school year is over, the graduation party has already wrecked the back yard (or at least emptied parents' pockets), and the beach (or pool or lake) beckons. For many, this weekend kicks off the dream of a long, wonderful summer.
Somehow, I'm not usually among that crowd. A lifelong vegetable gardener—at least until the ground got so much farther away from me than it used to be—summer meant a growing time. I need those wonderful sunshiny days to translate into productive effort, whether harvesting tomatoes right before making the dinner salad, or finding another way to make or create.
That, as always, has included expanding my mental pursuits, and summer is filled with hopes of accomplishing intellectual pursuits. Among them, of course, has always been a stack of books just crying out to be read.
This year will—hopefully—be no different. I have several books which have been languishing on my bookshelves and deserve immediate attention. The interesting thing is that most of these books all center around one specific theme: the concept of Story.
I've long been fascinated with the roll that Story plays in our lives, our interactions, our relationships and connections. It is the glue that holds an invisible entity together. If you want someone to pay attention to what you have to say, wrap it in the garb of a story and presto, you have rapt listeners.
I've always known that—watched skilled speakers who keep their audience attentive, analyzing their use of Story—but I've been wanting to know that even more. I've assembled several books which delve into that topic, but...well, they are still sitting on my to-do list. They are books still waiting to be read.
This week, I made a decision. I made a date with myself to carve out time to read a little bit each day this summer. Not a lot, you see, because that would become an enormous obligation which I would then end up abandoning because of the unreasonable time commitment. But an hour a day, out in the beautiful weather? I can do this.
So I made a date with myself. I will be going out for a cup of coffee each afternoon—well, until the sunshine gets too unbearable (summer temperatures around here can get well over one hundred degrees), when I'll do mornings—and I'll be bringing my book along for company. Hopefully, I'll convince a companion—either my husband (who has his own stack of unread books to conquer) or my teacher daughter, once her school duties are completely behind her—and we can read together. Perhaps we can even discuss what we've read, or swap books if the reading grass gets greener on the other side. The main point, though, is to isolate not only a time, but a specific place away from our usual surroundings, where the more mundane details of life can't beguile us back to those never-ending chores. Think of it as our own private book club.
For this summer, I'm hoping those many books on Story—its significance, its mesmerizing effect—will help hone those story-telling skills we all need, so we can more effectively take the wraps off from around the biographies of the insignificant lives we've been researching. Those stories need to be told. The better we can tell them, the more people will listen.