Old Stories

Monday, May 20, 2019

Stories shape our world.

If "the word" brought the earth into creation, certainly a story could. We have hundreds, thousands, a hundred-thousand million stories that breathe life into the world every day.

It is often wondered if and what stories are true. Biographies, memoirs, and news headlines are usually considered to be factually correct; the stories are "true" in the sense that they happened at a known time and place and the source relaying them is reliable. Generally speaking, fairy tales, myths, folklore, and even most scriptural stories are not viewed as "true" in the way that a research article is. There is no way to validate the existence of Pandora's box or a princess who slept for 100 years.

For most of my life I have straddled the world of fantasy and reality. I have never thought fairies were really dancing beneath the trees outside my door, but then again... what if they are? Maybe Aphrodite was just a figment of the Greek imagination, but then again... what if she wasn't? I've never seen a mermaid in the ocean, but sometimes the perfect spray of a wave catches the light in such a way that I wonder if a person could possibly imagine such a glossy, ethereal glitter.

A well-told story invites you into its world, weaving a reality around you, enfolding you in the magic of a moment both in and outside of time. It lets you lay in the lush, green hills of a land far away. The winds of possibility brush your face, and you inhale the familiarity of once upon a time. A good story becomes itself, and in the telling, becomes a part of you. Some tales are so well-told, loved, and ingrained that at times it is hard to see beyond its tight-knit warp and weft.

I am wrapped in many stories. I have been Psyche. I have been Clytie. I have been Rapunzel. I have been a selkie. I've been Sally in "A House on Mango Street." I've been Eve, Rachel, Deborah, Mary. I've been a witch. I have been, and yet have not. I am Channing. I have my own story.

The last six months I've felt "story-less," with no guiding myth or tale that calls my soul on a new adventure of self-discovery. In time I realized that this "empty" time has not been empty at all. It has been a repetition of stories I know very well.

If "the word" creates the world, what life am I building with the stories I tell to and about myself? 

I have true stories that must be gently folded up, placed on a shelf, and allowed to collect dust. I must remember that simply because a story has power does not mean it has magic. There is no moral to be found in unalchemized stories mired in salty tears and bitter hate. There is no enchantment in victimhood.

This move to Utah has left me exposed. I am not "cactus girl", not a desert goddess, not a witch. I'm not wearing any of the names that felt beautiful and magical to me. I feel naked, coming to this new place with nothing but myself. Just Channing, who tells stories. Just Channing, who is afraid. 

I have noticed when it rains here, I can smell the tang in the air that travels from the Salt Lake. It reminds me of the ocean. The rain falls without fanfare. Only the grass remembers to say "thank you" in the foreign tongue of dandelions. I hope I never forget to be grateful.

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