Sparked by Words

Archive for July, 2018

Droog Tells a Story

Droog sprints around the campfire before the six members of the gang he hangs out with. He whistles and puffs, pounds his chest and leans over the crowd. He flashes a toothy grimace, gestures wildly. He can’t count how many folks are there but he knows by their faces and smells if one is missing. Droog is the very first human being, a creature different from the monkey hanging by his tail in the tree overhead. He isn’t threatening his gang in a power play or forcing anyone to submit to his demands. Well, not now, anyway.

Droog, you see, is telling a story. The gang he hangs with is mesmerized because they can’t wait to learn what happens next.

The monkey is used to Droog. He’s seen him before and senses when it’s time to high tail it out of there – before Droog grabs him by that long tail and slings him over the fire, making crispy monkey tenders out of him. Monkey acts from instinct and experience. Self preservation is a big deal to him. If monkey is female, she’ll protect her baby with everything she’s got. Hanging overhead of Droog and his gang is fine as long as the ground hoppers leave monkey and her crew alone.

When the big water rushes toward them, they all run – monkey and human. When the big mountain spits fire, they all run. When the giant animal with dagger teeth leaps at them, they all run. Monkey and human run from threats when instinct and experience declare their lives are imperiled. Fire mountain, flooding water, and bounding predator all plan to end their lives.

Monkey and human run and run and run. They climb and hide and cower and watch to make sure they’re safe. When the all clear bells sounds, they go back to doing what they like. Eating and mating and hanging around with each other in a safe place, pulling off ticks and fleas. Monkey and Droog are much the same in these ways. Food, sex, safety. Except this is where it ends with monkey.

Droog stepped over the threshold of humanness, one level further along the evolutionary tree. Maybe we should call it a bramble bush, given how erratically that tree spread its experimental developments. Mab, Hund, Wurf, and all the rest of the human gang do one thing that monkey never does. They tell stories.

Mab scrapes ocher from the river bank and smears it onto rocks, making images that tell stories.

Hund pounds on a dried gourd in a rhythm that quickens and ebbs, making sounds that tell stories.

Wurf hauls a stone out of the earth and carves shapes into it, making forms that tell stories.

After years of watching the very youngest children play, I noticed that all kids tell stories. Putting rocks and leaves in patterns, jabbering to plastic blocks and stuffed animals, toddling outside to hug a roly poly, they tell stories the whole time. The narrative, even if gibberish, infuses their activities with meaning. They tell stories even before they can talk or have the ability to understand the craft of storytelling, Yes, parents read to them, but even the littlest ones are compelled to tell their own stories.

Telling stories is one of the big differences between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom. Droog excels at retelling the run from danger. Bellies fed, sexual desire sated, and safety guaranteed for the next few minutes (even though they can’t count and have no concept of time,) the gang raptly listens and watches while Droog scrabbles, tumbles, waves his arms, wiggles his rear, spits and grunts to tell the story of the fire, the flood, the capture they all just evaded.

Monkey strips bark from the tree and chews. He’s aware of the manic nonsense Droog pulls every once in a while – he’s seen it before but can’t make anything out of all that wild gesticulation except to know that he’s safe in his tree, tail looped around a branch, eating bark. Monkey can’t figure out why Droog is cavorting in the firelight, and he can’t improvise a routine either. Monkey not only can’t tell stories – he can’t perceive when they’re being told.

The gift of free time allows monkey the luxury of hanging around the branches fluffing his neighbor’s fur. That same wealth of time grants Droog his moment of theater. The story of the chase, of the hunt, of birth and death, of visions, of the promise that it will all happen again tomorrow because it happened yesterday, and they all lived to tell about it today.

So here I am, a few evolutionary levels advanced from Droog, a few years older than the kids I observe, telling stories. One day my stories will be available in print and you’ll see they aren’t much different from Droog’s or the toddler’s. My characters run from fire, flood, and monsters with big teeth.

Sharon tells a story.

 

Prehistoric cave art image courtesy Pixabay

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What Do I Do Now?

Speak even when you are speechless.

Bellow when you are crying.

Whisper when you are lost.

Open your palms when words fail.

Pray when you are harrowed.

If nothing grows, plant weeds.

 

Reach out when there’s nothing left to do.

Hold others tight during a quake.

Take the hands of those who stand apart.

Give when your account is empty.

Share everything when nothing remains.

If fish die, water the oceans.

 

Imagine while you dream.

Rock while the baby sleeps.

Cradle when the aged weep.

Plan the future on the last page of the calendar.

Climb atop the barricades.

If you waver, stand on quicksand.

 

Awaken on the cusp of the new day.

Cross over as the piers collapse.

March on two broken feet.

Dance on your knees and elbows.

Crawl on the flesh around your ribs.

If you wear rags, scour the mud.

 

Avoid flight when evil approaches.

Listen to those who will not hear.

Sign for those who are made silent.

Thump your chest when your breath catches.

Pierce your heart when you shiver.

If the bees depart, bring honey.

 

Translate pain into self portraits.

Wail when words are not enough.

Write when words are all you have.

Etch in blood when your pencil breaks.

There’s always something you can do.

If not for you, for someone else.

 

 

Just a thought 44

 

 

Painting: Mother and Child, 1914, by Julius Paulsen

 

 

 

 

 

I Will Tell

 

An old barn is a bane to a farmer but a boon to an artist

A dilapidated shack an eyesore for neighbors but refuge for the poor

A ruined mortal a quarry for accusers but forage for the poet

No matter the cunning snake that wallows in his deceit,

no matter the smirking ghoul who destroys a career,

the gossip who barters a confidence like cheap candy,

or the trusted friend for whom betrayal is a conquest

Even the repentant face in my mirror seeks amends

 

We hold a dance in the old barn for the lovelorn,

pretending we are not the target of the fiddle’s song

We thrust our hand into the poor box, denying our hunger

for the taste of human comfort, of slaking the thirst for touch

We witness the breaking of bonds, the loss of redemption

No matter the ink dripping red and thick as blood,

beating a drum’s dirge so close to the heart

The heat of fever spreads across the dampened cloth

 

Here in the shack lit by the flame within my marrow,

nerve endings steal my breath, fright scores my flesh

All the sorrows of life and demise, of hope and regret

Just this side of one being’s view of all’s fair,

another’s sight of conflict shrieking grievance,

each begging for sympathy and a sacred verse

To me, the ash heap of sorrow and confession,

Remains the mewling rasp of story, and I will tell it

 

 

Just a thought 43

 

 

Old barn photo courtesy Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom

 

Happy 4th of July, Americans.

However you celebrate, remember that freedom is a lifestyle people worldwide struggle to achieve.

Freedom marches on sore feet. Freedom cries on an empty belly. Freedom learns in all colors. Freedom prays in many languages. Freedom hurts. Freedom heals.

We all have a stake in making the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution an ongoing force. An evolving reality that began with dissension over wordage and power. And changed. And changes still.

Be civil. Be fair. We are stronger united but many voices demand an ear. Listen. Read.

We are the face of humanity for the rest of the world.

We are the standard of liberty for all people.

Be civil. Be seen. Be loud. Be present.

March. Write. Speak. Think. Vote.

Assure rights to all Americans. Every day. Every year. Every place.

Life. Liberty. Pursuit of happiness.

Happy 4th of July.

 

Just a thought 42

 

Image: United States of America Declaration of Independence