As the cold and rains came in November, I decided to begin writing another book. As much as I’d like to write a fantasy novel for the Twins of Tessar series, or complete the one I wrote during #NaNoWriMo in 2009, another story calls.
This tale is a map to the many doors that have opened in me, gradually, graciously allowing me to become fully myself. The story is as sweet as a fairy that leads you with her glowing light into the forest. And it’s as scary as that 9-headed monster you don’t want to meet there in the dark. It’s hopping with goofy gremlins of all shades and colors in between.
I’m not yet 100% clear on the shape this story will take. A graphic memoir? An animation? A performance? A series of blog posts or videos? Every day in November (I’m calling it Devotional Project Month, or DevoProMo) I spend from 1 to 3 hours writing, singing, drawing, filming, or just exploring this story. My intention is to utterly follow an inner compass, my Spark.
So far my mind and heart has overflowed with ideas, generating a mountain of words. That is part of the process, to allow what comes. But my ego wanted a flashlight and a shovel so I could see the path ahead. My Spark said: Ask Grandpa.
My grandfather, Dr. Norman Frank Thorpe, was a master teacher and storyteller. With a twinkle in his sea-blue eyes, he charmed and inspired and warmed the hearts of everyone around him. This superpower, along with his insightful intelligence, led to a position of honor as a dean at the University of Nebraska.
Grandpa Gumpy died when I was 16. At that time I was cut off from myself, pursuing pleasure in any form I could get, seeking to change my unhappy consciousness through many dangerous adventures on the wild road.
Among the elders who expressed concern my 15th summer, Grandpa truly saw me. With his presence, his body, his hands, and that mystery sauce that emanates from a loving heart, he showed me how much he cared for me. Perhaps it made a difference; perhaps that love created a force field that helped me survive several brushes with death.
38 years later, I still need his love. And his help. I lit a candle and settled into the big comfy chair he would have chosen. I remembered details that brought him to life again: running my hand across his silver flattop, bristle-stiff yet deliciously bendable. His leathery skin, dark tan from many hours in the sun golfing or fishing, his great passions. The scent of his favorite pipe tobacco.
I thanked him for his love, and for showing me how to hook a worm that long quiet afternoon at Butternut Point, Minnesota, when I was about 7. Sharing a small boat with Grampa Gumpy, watching the ripples move across the lake, with a backdrop of buzzing insects, I imagined the world below the surface. Would a fish swim up to take a bite of that worm?
My book – or whatever it is – is like the elusive sunfish. My ego wants to catch it, but it’s still swimming in the land of mystery.
I asked out loud, “Grandpa, what can you tell me about storytelling?”
His words came up from my heart, from the wisdom that reaches beyond time and space and death and life. His voice was clear, and it had a twinkle. Always a twinkle.
“The real essence of story comes from not only from what you think you have to say, but from the magical space between you and your audience.
First, put your awareness in the audience. Imagine that you are among them. Imagine their concerns, their needs and wants. Once you can really feel them, then you are ready to step into the space between.
The space between you and them is where the fire is, the ancient storytelling fire. Men and women have crouched and told stories around this fire for the millennia. That space between is where the magic happens: it whispers to you what is needed. If you remember that space and the fire, your stories will connect.”
I sat in awe of this nugget, sensing that shifting from Me to You to the Space Between will help with all communication, not just this project. It’s another way to speak of the resonant field, created with our energy.
Grandpa spoke of many things, of becoming an elder, of authenticity. He also said that my book is not one big story, but many little ones. Just like the fish in the lake. We want to catch a Big Fish, but most of the joy and pleasure of fishing is in the feel of the sun and the shadows swimming under the boat.
Do you have a relationship with your ancestors? Tell me a story…