There and Back

Red poppies – Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium

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.

About megan hicks

The best parts of my life happen when I pull magic from thin air. That happens with the spoken word. The written word. Reclaiming trash in the material world. It's about recognition. Re-cognition. Learning fresh the truth I've always known. Seeing new potential as a result of a change in context. It's alchemy.
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5 Responses to There and Back

  1. lynnelise says:

    I was waiting to respond till I had a chance to listen to #55 of Tobolowski Files. Turns out it wasn’t Episode 55, it was just 55 in line. But it was amazing. I want to be inside his head! Next free listening time I have, it’s for Episode 55. Pity I don’t have a “device” so I can listen in the car. I’m so glad you turned me on to this guy!

    • megan hicks says:

      He’s headlining at the storytelling festival in Ottawa in November. It’ll take moving heaven and earth for me to get there, but I intend to try. Because of him, and also because all the Canadian tellers I’ve ever heard have blown me away. Glad you liked it.

  2. Simon Brooks says:

    Thanks for sharing. When I think of elder soldiers, I wonder who they were BEFORE they went to fight.

  3. What a great description of when it doesn’t happen! Reaching out instead of drawing in!

  4. Martha Tate says:

    Megan, I have so enjoyed your Jonesborough blogs! Thank you for sharing your delightful experience there.

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