24 Feb 2015
Telling the Stories We Live Inside
What does it mean—“to make sense of life”?
It simply means fitting the elements into what I consider to be a coherent narrative…
The story of my real life is not a neatly crafted story, not an aesthetically unified, coherent novel or drama;
it’s something of a hodge-podge.
It’s full of digression, overlapping subplots, unfinished lines of action, trivia, changes of style and tone, dull stretches.
Yet insofar as it makes any sense at all, it can only do so as it makes narrative sense. No other format will do. —Herbert Finagrette
Examining decades of life through the lens of my relationship with nature keeps me hitched to the mission of Gray Is Green in my personal and community life, in reflections and actions. As I reflect, I hear the stories I live inside—and I long to hear those from others, to understand our world together.
I am indebted to David R. Loy and his book, The World is Made of Stories, for the theme-setting quotation above and for his marvelous account of story-telling as personal and political action. Meeting Gray-Greens in many places, I am impressed with the way our worlds converge in our stories. Each has lived for decades, witnessing and participating in social, economic, and ecological advances and declines. We are collecting stories at our Gray Is Green Storyboard.
I recall Rachel shared an image from wheelchair in a northern Connecticut nursing home about one potted tomato plant on her patio reminding her of summer morning rides in the back of her father’s truck: vast farm fields of tomato plants wafting the remarkable aroma of tomato—before the fruit was ever in evidence—as she accompanied a beloved older brother on rounds of farm chores.
Pick a story you have thought of or told often. Write it down or dictate it to a loved one. Once you get the basic story into 250,500 or 750 words, send it to Gray Is Green via email@example.com with Subject Line: Storyboard. We will add it to our community collection!
Another image came from Ethan on a winter train ride along the Connecticut coast: the view out the windows is holiday-card bright—this in sharp contrast to the coal-dust blackened snow from train trips to his grandparents’ house in the 1950’s. He still savors the brilliance of the vast white blanket he had not known was possible as a child traveling through the woods to grandmother’s house on Christmas mornings.
The unexamined life is not worth living. –Socrates
Around the country and across ideological divides, it is our stories that connect us to nature and to one another. And we build our community when we share those stories. I have stories to tell; you have stories to tell: this is not idle chatter. Rather, this is the way we build community, reaching toward a deeper understanding of where we came from, how we got here, and the contours of the story we will live inside for the rest of our lives. This is how we develop the story-telling muscle for creating a legacy for our children and grandchildren.
Baalbek, Lebanon : Mercy Corps
Photo: Cassandra Nelson
Here is one: Vickie and I woke early that Saturday: morning fresh from overnight thunderstorm, sisters just released from the school year—ready for adventure! The construction site down the road sported an invitingly large mud puddle: moist clay ripe for shaping our 11- and 9-year old imaginations. The full story of Summer Mud-Play is at the Storyboard.
Now it is your turn! Think back to a moment when you were aware of being part of the larger-than-me natural world, to one of those fleeting times of wonder: a change of season, a phase of moon, a starry night, a sunrise or sunset; a weather event, a moment of interaction with another species in the wild, at home or in a zoo.
Perhaps it was a moment an unexpected moment on a walk, hike, climb, swim, bicycle; on a train, in a plane, in a car (Oh! the places we can go!); in a garden–planting, tending, or harvesting; seeing a place for the first time or as if for the first time; seeing changes in a special place over time and seasons; seeing how nature breaks through in the city!
How about a time when you were with children their moment of connection with nature; an episode of singing, dancing, holding ritual outside with feet on Earth; a time of setting up camp, surviving camping in challenging elements. Or a time when you were experiencing a sacred-earth connection in the middle of the city, surrounded by concrete yet reveling in sky, in wind, in green growing plants…in snow, rain, or breeze…or flood, drought, heat… so much life to reflect upon.
Join the Storyboard Project: it is easy!
First, reflect on your own experiences with an aspect of nature—an element, species, landscape or phenomenon—that inspired in you a deeper sense of respect for, connection with, and responsibility toward the more-than-human world. Visit our Gray Is Green Storyboard to sample some stories.
Then write your story—or dictate it to a loved one—to share with other Gray-Greens as we trade and collect our stories, shaping our generational response to what we love in the world. Your story is given to fuel and inspire others to join a movement on behalf of the future.
Send your story to Gray Is Green at firstname.lastname@example.org with Subject Line: Storyboard. We look forward to hearing from you!
We are between stories.– Thomas Berry