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Part X, Story Telling

By Remy Benoit

What is the story that you have to tell?

Is your story of war, of memories of growing up in the city, in the country? Is your story about the year you came closest to the perfect Rockwellian Christmas? Or is your story perhaps about the Christmas you spent far away from home as a student, as a soldier? Is your story one that you need to tell to free yourself of some experience of long ago that you feel the sharing of might help someone else on their journey?

Once you decide on the story that you want to tell, then you must decide on the device that you wish to use to tell the story. Would a short story best suit your needs? Do you need novel length characters to tell your tale, or perhaps it could be best staged as a one-act play, or a poem of epic proportions?

Where are the story tellers, the troubadors of today?
There are those who still tell stories orally to audiences.
There is the printed word.
There are audio tapes.
There are faces. It said that our lives are written on our faces, in our eyes. Make a habit of reading faces. Make a habit of word playing with a face that particularly attracts, or even repels you. Create a life that you think perhaps has been lived behind that face. Keep a file of these character sketches; they may be of use in your later work.

Many years ago as I walked the rising streetway to the Plaka in Athens, there sat a shoemaker at the edge of the street; a man with most fascinating face I have ever seen; his life, his joy, his pain quite literally etched into as he Zen sat seeing only the shoe being repaired in his hand, or so it seemed. Perhaps he took in the vibrant life around him; but he seemed to see but the shoe and hear but the tapping of his shoemaker's tool. Whenever I think of his face, I think of learning to live in the moment, in the present, giving whatever I am doing my full attention.

There are those who teach us to listen, to hear, to see the life around us. This is a tale of wise man, encountered by a woman on a walkabout in Australia, written originally as a response to the piece on a sax player named Patience:

meditating on patience
I saw a man once
soft voice
and big lashes
he walked the roads
no shoes
big man
older guy
on holiday he was
me too
and we all sat around
playing music
just hanging out
there was a tailor there
as well
and me
my partner
a couple of others...
this guy laughed loud and sweet
brought joy to his voice
and our music
but next door
a couple, two guys
were arguing
long time living there
long time arguing
all night'round and round
big fire
lots of heat
and after a while
we all silent
sat down to
for a result
or an end
but he went in and listened
no talking
just being
sometime around midnight i went for a walk
alone with the rocks
and mountain
came back
fire still going
around and around
all night
they argued
we slept
a little
in the morning it was over
one packed
one in tears
begging him not
to leave
the big, quiet man still
being there
I sat in the sun
the tailor sewed
in out
fast pricks of the needle
someone went to get more wood
and more wood
and more wood
and more wood
nobody could stop
nobody knew
what to stay
the business of packing seen
the grief
the hurt like anguish in our hearts and ears
the big
quiet man
walked off
to the forest
and came back with mushrooms
for us all
a feast
but no fire
though a mountain
of wood
in the high
clear sun
I was silly
didn't know then
the pain
of separation
and it was all
vaguely fascinating
the tailor
the lovers
the others
and the big quiet man
who kept us all
in the face of rawness
looking at him
face so serene
I knew who he was
not of this earth
that's for sure
not this time round
but a gift
of himself
to keep peace
through his heart
and listening eyes,
through the music
and mushrooms

giribaba they called him
mountain father
wish he'd been my father
patience to listen
and patience to play
with heart
and so quiet

never forget such
a one

felt so much love
in his heart
like an ache
of purity
maybe you would call it compassion
I thought it was boddhisattva

like a dandelion
seen once
in the wind
no harm
only purity
and is that not love?
and again'round
and round

.....later on the path
we passed
the one who left
singing to him self
or rather,
he passed us
going fast
kicking stones
his voice and eyes
like ice

body hard
way hard


Life has been called a dance; what music do you dance to; how free and self-expressive is your dance? What kind of dance, what kind of music plays through your story, your poem, your screenplay? What heartbeat does it have? What music do you hear in your head, in your heart, when your words are spilling out onto the page? When I read your words, what music do you want me to hear? What song, what soul, heart and head song, do you want me to share with you, to know about you? What is your music that I can share the dance with you as a reader? What empathy, comfort, lesson will sing to me from your page?

I have discovered the dance. I have discovered the art which has been lost for two thousand years.
— Isadora Duncan

What in your life, in your character's, has restricted your movements?

Look at historic figures and change their clothes in your mind. What would Elizabeth I have been like in a flapper dress; Victoria in a jogging suit; Alexander in tie dye and love beads. Obviously, these radical sartorial shifts did not occur, but they do clarify for us the layers worn by others in other times. What was in these people; what were they wearing physically, psychologically, and spiritually, that would not have allowed this kind of radical sartorial shift? What tuned their music to harmony or dissonance?

She had a womanly instinct that clothes possess an influence more powerful over many than the worth of character or the magic of manners.
— Louisa May Alcott

What are you, and your characters, still carrying, wearing that no longer fits you physically, psychologically, or spiritually? What old music, whose old tapes are playing in your head, still demanding that you dance, sing, write, be to their demands?

Where did each layer come from?

Was this 'clothing,' this music, put on/in you, or did you choose itn; or did you choose to put it on by not choosing something else with intent; did you react, stand as still as a dress maker's dummy, or a clothes tree, or act?


Oh, no, only one can be the
The rest are just the troupe.

A terrible life
of endless practice
back stage dinginess
no family life.

white lace leg ribbons
fancy tutus
Swan Queen.

Last curtain.

— Pastiche


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This item is part of historian, author, editor, and educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, and others who believe in learning from and making history; including thousands of articles and posts and the free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.

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