This morning I woke up to a forest full of birdsong. Nothing but screens between us and the breeze outside. One wall of our bedroom is an unobstructed view of trees and more trees. I never thought about it before, but that’s a lot of oxygen wafting through the holes in the walls. It’s so good to be home.
On Saturday, while I was telling those fairy tales, I was aware that it felt like work. I had hoped to conjure that spell that would put us all into an altered state — that spell where I lose track of time and before I know it I’m at the end of the story, wondering how on earth I got there. I could see that I had a good connection with the audience. I met them as they came into the theatre between 1:30 and 2:00. There were some kids, and I had some origami paper handy, so I did a little “pre-game show” and we all got acquainted with each other a little bit before the actual program started at 2:00. Later when I listened to a recording of the performance there was nothing to be embarrassed about. It was solid. Enough. But I noticed, especially in the bridges between stories, I was reaching out. Not drawing the audience in.
I felt disappointed with myself. Not bitterly disappointed. I just wondered what happened. Or didn’t happen. I told myself that sometimes the fairy godmother of storytelling trances visits you, sometimes she doesn’t. You show up as prepared as you can be, and from that point on it’s a crap shoot. Maybe I was just running out of steam after a week of being “on.”
Yesterday was a long haul home. Thank heaven for recorded books, podcasts, and storytelling CDs. Molly Catron‘s stories from “Do Lord, Do Lord, O Do You Remember Me” got me across the line from Tennessee into Virginia. I love just listening to Molly talk, and when she shifts from talking to storytelling it’s even better. AND her singing came as an unexpected, delightful surprise. I finished one young adult novel (“Bruiser,” by Neil Shusterman. Five stars.) and started “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” somewhere between Harrisonburg and Winchester. I almost fell asleep at a traffic signal. With Barbara Rosenblatt narrating. Clearly, I needed to walk around a little bit and caffeinate.
While I drank my coffee, I downloaded the most recent podcasts from my new favorite storyteller in the whole world — Stephen Tobolowsky. That’s what I played on the home stretch. It was Podcast #55, “The True Arena.” It was a gift from the fairy godmother of storytelling. The answer to my question — “What happened?” — about Saturday’s performance. It was a lesson in the difference between Practice and Preparation. Next time, I will take care to Prepare before I attempt to conjure a spell. There will still be a Crap Shoot Quotient. But I’ve got more control over what does and doesn’t happen between teller and audience than I have ever accepted accountability for. (Note to self: Re-read “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.”)
Memorial Day. The first image that leaps to mind whenever I encounter the word “veteran” is the picture of a dreary parade — a regiment of old men wearing ill-fitting uniforms. I forget that back in the days when those uniforms fit them, they were boys.