Stuart McLean was telling stories about singing songs yesterday. The Vinyl Cafe was all about using your voice to carry a tune and carry a tale. Something many of my friends can do. Not me.
I like music. I was in band in school. I was in choir too and I also took piano lessons for many years. Now a days I listen to songs on the internet or through my mobile. I almost never hum along. I don’t like singing. Except, I just remembered, around a campfire.
I was a Brownie and a Girl Guide and a Pathfinder and a Ranger. Camping is a big part of the Guiding movement and I went every summer to live outdoors for a week. After sun soaked days of hiking or sailing or jumping off the dock into the lake, we sat in a circle singing campfire songs. Songs written years before we were born. Songs that wove stories of tragedy like the Titanic into melodies. We sung the words without sadness. Because we were young and the worst thing to happen that day was a wasp sting.
My favourite song to sing around the flames is Barges. It’s a simple composition with lyrics about ocean-going vessels bringing treasures from one part of the world to the other. There are even pirates fighting in the midst of the score. Barges is a song that harmonizes music with a good story. Any voice can carry this tune and every imagination can take to the seas when singing this story under a starry night.
Listen to Barges: http://bit.ly/1LaqVCt
I instruct writing workshops and one thing I teach is a story has to have a beginning, middle and end. An easy way to accomplish this in a piece is to remember to use the three o’s: objective, obstacle and outcome.
To get the point across I split a class into groups of three. Then I have everyone write an objective (beginning) and pass their paper on to the next person. That person then has to add the tale and write the obstacle (middle) of the first person’s story. After he or she is finished, they pass the story on to the next person, who concludes the story with the outcome.
The end result is usually a pretty cool story: even though it’s been written by three people. But the point is not to write a masterpiece but to show how easy it is to craft a story when there’s structure. Some amazing tales have come out of this exercise. Here is one:
Oct. 23 2013
It was supposed to be a nice day and he hoped the sun would keep shining. He had a ring in his pocket and a proposal on his mind. He loved his girl and it was time to make her his wife.
The only problem was she lived in Toronto and he lived in Calgary. Neither of them had enough money to visit each other in person, even though we were able to converse over e-mail. The man had heard that sometimes web dating didn’t work out because a lovely woman could turn out to be a burly guy. But in his heart, he knew his situation was different.
“That’s it!” he said to himself. “I have to get to Toronto. Nothing will stand in my way.”
He took the ring and pawned it. With the money from the trade he bought a ticket to Toronto. If she loves him as much as he loves her, she won’t care that he don’t have the bling.
How do I use technology for my business’ advantage?
Find out here: http://bit.ly/1F9WR2E.
Maple Leaf Gardens in 2009.
Don’t laugh at me but I like the Leafs. Yes, the Toronto Maple Leafs. My team hasn’t done well all year and definitely aren’t in the running for the Stanley Cup so I’m rooting for my next favourite team, the Calgary Flames. (Update: they lost last night.) My husband is a diehard Montreal Canadians fan and I’m not going there.
I went to Ryerson University in downtown Toronto. My second year, I lived in Cabbagetown, east of Yonge Street and about a 10 minute walk from class. Going to and fro I passed Maple Leaf Gardens, the large brick building that was the home of the Maple Leafs.
I didn’t favour one hockey team over another back then. The Maritimes don’t have an NHL team, so I never felt an affinity for one squad or another. But being in Toronto and having Maple Leaf Gardens nearby made me a Leafs fan. I used the see the players walking in and out from a game or practice. On cold winter nights that turned the outdoor light blue, joyous crowds would cram through the Gardens’ doors and hit the streets. I weaved my way through their happy (most of the time) braying and would hear their dissections of the winning goal.
Sometimes I saw players from the visiting team standing outside, like Wayne Gretzky and
Go Leafs! (Next year.)
Marty McSorley when they played for the L.A. Kings. They were getting ready to hop on the bus parked on Carlton Street. Headed home. Like me.
Those moments created a member of Leafs Nation. It wasn’t any specific hockey stat, player, or game. I actually haven’t seen them play other than on TV. But it doesn’t matter. I will never Leaf them. Although I’m crossing my fingers (and toes) they pick up their game next season.
My parents and I.
I don’t have a first memory of my mother. She’s always been there: picking me up, carrying me, holding my hand and teaching me about life. For the past few months, I’ve been collecting my mother’s stories. Now I’m learning about her life.
You’d think that I’d already know a lot about my mother. Of course I do. She told my sisters and I many stories about growing up in northwestern Ontario on a farm. Her anecdotes are rich with detail and humour and tie her family stories to us, the next generation. My niece and nephew have even created heritage projects in school using their grandmother’s (my mother’s) memoirs about her dad, a Second World War veteran. But it’s different hearing family stories when you’re young compared to when you’re 40.
At the age I am now, I have different questions. They lead to different insights. I see the sadness behind some of the funny stories. I understand the context. I hear the love in her voice when she talks about her parents, remembering them through the lens of maturity.
My mother’s memoirs are not close to being being done. I’ve interviewed her up to when she met my father, a quirkier story than I realized. My mother’s story isn’t done either because she has so much more life to live. She continues to be there for my sisters and I. We’ll always be her babies, she always tells us, and there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for us.
Happy Mother’s Day to my mother and every other mother too.
Have a treasured memory of your mom to share – but don’t have the time to write it down?
Talk to me.
Tell me your tale in half an hour, I’ll turn it into a story she’ll keep forever.
$50 (Payment required via Interac e-transfer.)
For more information, contact LeaStorry@ourfamilylines.ca or 403-700-5435.
Smiles in Tansen, Nepal. June, 2011.
Photo: Kyla Storry
Nepal is on the other side of the world. It seems so far away. Yet it’s not. The earthquake that hit, and hit hard, is hitting Canada too. My sister visited the country a couple of years ago and I have several friends who have lived and travelled to Kathmandu. Through their stories I’ve heard about a country that smiles through its struggles. On Saturday the lives of Nepalis were changed by the churning jaws of Earth.
The earthquake brought damage, destruction, death. And waiting. Waiting to hear that loved ones are safe. Waiting to hear their voices or see their messages over e-mail or Facebook. My sister was lucky and only spent a few hours wondering about the fate of her friends. They weren’t hurt. But they’re not OK. Far from it:
“(Our) mothers’ houses are mostly cracked and about to collapse due to very old houses and made by stone and mud, we are all safe, thank you so much for your prayers. There is still a huge fear in our hearts due to frequent quakes happening time to time. It is very important your prayer at the moment. It’s been 2 nights since we are sleeping outside of the house with this disastrous earth quake.”
Birkha and Dhana
Some of us make new connections when we travel. We share stories and cultures and
At the temple in the UNESCO world heritage site of Bhaktapur, June 2011.
Photo: Kyla Storry
Click here: http://bit.ly/1OteJPO
interesting things about our lives. We invest time and energy getting to know these people. Back at home we trade the occasional status update or photo in order to keep the thread of our vacation memories from slipping away. But here is our chance to make our worlds collide again. It’s in the time of sheer pain and disaster that our global relationships pay off. We in Canada have the power to help. Will you?
Winnipeg Centre Vineyard
The Canadian Red Cross
SOS Children’s Villages
Doctors Without Borders
The Lions Clubs International Foundation
Canadian Medical Assistance Teams
Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund
At the podium for Friends and Mentors: Sharing Experiences. A behind-the-scenes look at TMC.
Yesterday I was at the Calgary library talking about my experiences teaching memoir writing workshops to participants from the Drop-In Centre, Alpha House and Women’s Centre. My presentation was one of five and part of the This Is My City Festival 2015.
I’m a volunteer with This is My City (TMC). TMC matches artists with people living at the margins of society and together we write, dance, sing and create art. I run memoir writing sessions and get to hear many different anecdotes from the homeless and those at risk of homelessness.
The festival is free and there are many things to see and hear and do this upcoming week. From art exhibits to found poetry to a photo walk, you’re invited to join us: http://bit.ly/1FN3j1R. It’s a great way to see, hear, read and listen about the people most of us have forgotten.
TMC: Found Poetry.
A Starbucks caramel caffè macchiato.
We’ve all had those days or weeks or months or years. When things are tough. When things aren’t going smoothly. When everything you do ends up on the proverbial floor. Today though, I’m finding humour in the unfunny. Turning the tables on the rough stuff and looking through the gloominess and into the sunshine.
During a particularly bad week, I went to Starbucks. At least here I get exactly what I want: a non-fat, half-sweet chai latte with a tart and tasty slice of lemon loaf on the side. The barista who took my order was an acquaintance. I don’t know anything about her except her name and she’s a student. We made some small talk as I hand over my loaded gift card to be swiped.
“It says zero,” she says.
Oh… My face heats up like the milk being steamed for my drink. I madly check all my pockets looking for change, for a piece of plastic, anything. Nope. Nothing. I took the wrong gift card. And I didn’t have any money or a debit or credit card on me.
“This is embarrassing,” I say to the barista as I step towards the door. “I’ll have to skip the drink today.”
“It’s already made so don’t worry about it.”
Isn’t that nice.
I grab my drink and go to put a lid on it. When I look down at the hot beverage it’s not what I ordered. It’s a caramel caffè macchiato..and I don’t drink coffee. However, I really can’t send a free latte back. Oh well. There’s whip cream on top…and I like that.