Tag Archives: story telling

How Lucky! Thank You, Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor

On a Sunday afternoon in Lexington, Massachusetts, from the vantage of front row, left, you get the full measure of a man who has the verbal skill to hold a packed audience rapt for two hours. Just retired, Keillor’s six-foot-four slightly bent-to-the right body danced to the lyrical rhythms of his stories. Dressed in a tan linen suit, white shirt, bold red tie, red socks and red sneakers, I was fascinated how he tapped out a two-step beat to punctuate his verbal rhythms.

The man’s voice, low, resonant, slightly nasal began with tales of his Lutheran roots, how two hours of weekly sitting during the study of Leviticus every Sunday vaccinated him from future boredom. At 17, just arrived at college, he ended up skinny-dipping in the Mississippi River and swept downstream sans clothing, one of many formidable lessons in being “cool.”

I was grateful to bear witness to the stories of his radio launch in college, his amazement at arriving at 74, the articulation of facing his body’s complaints, the sheer wonder of the journey from late adolescent’s “cool” to his present circumspective elder self, his gratitude for a precious daughter who puts her arms around him.

His formative president was Eisenhower, the pragmatic, systemic commander, who championed the highway system, transforming the two-lane highway, widening the opportunities to travel by car across the nation. Keillor wondering, as an amused aside, how Jack Kerouac’s mind would have been blown by the ease of coast-to-coast options.

Kerouac-Hemingway-Thoreau: they were all with him, admired, and referenced in the tapestry of associations, memories, and stories. At the core, Keillor is a wordsmith, a writer, often of poetry, whose greatest delight is germinating an idea before sleep in anticipation of the next morning’s work—to dig in and plant, to tend and grow the words into form.

In the midst of wild applause and laughter to the point of tears, he launched into song. My voice, unfamiliar in song, joined in chorus. His hands invoked us to sing My Country Tis of Thee, Swing Low, and more favorites.

I resonated with his love of writing, and the call to write down and shape words into a poem. I was happiest those mornings of dedicated time two decades ago when I first found poetry and rose every morning before work to capture what seemed liked magical lines on my 13 inch tiny Mac screen. The effort rooted me, enriched my life and set the stage for my enrollment in Pine Manor’s Solstice MFA program at the same age as Keillor.

In time, I expanded into narratives, extrapolating the longer view, mining the details and patterns. Like Keillor, I was grateful to have the perspective of years, the habit of discipline and the will to write.

And so we go on, it’s a good time because you can look back, see things, the trajectory over time…We write; it’s a gift, how lucky… Keillor remarked. Yes, how lucky.

Creative Expression: Jane Pauley & Gary Trudeau at Chautauqua

Pauley & Trudeau Thanks to Mike Clark Chautauqua Daily

Pauley & Trudeau
Thanks to Mike Clark
Chautauqua Daily

“Our DNA indicates we are all stories waiting to be told,” thus Roger Rosenblatt began his interview with the married couple—Jane Pauley, journalist and Gary Trudeau, creator of Doonesbury— day one of five during my Road Scholar week at Chautauqua.

“Every story, in my book, is a different puzzle,” Pauley said, “and as we interview or read, we may think the story has little to do with you or me but then, inevitably, you find that connection— that illumination that reveals something about yourself.”

How gratifying to be among a community of 5,000 listeners and to listen, first hand, to the why and wherefore of the inclination to create, to tell a story.

Trudeau is motivated by curiosity. He writes Doonesbury as a week-long story. Often beginning in the middle, his inspiration challenges him to “reverse engineer” to begin at the beginning, to create Monday’s edition. He believes that people evolve with different skill sets, storytelling being one of them. He described the storyteller as “indispensable” because the storyteller chronicles events and memories that “helps the rest of the tribe understand how to move forward.”

Over and over, the theme returned to how stories enable us to drop into the story and shape our own meaning. Having seen Jane Pauley on television, her voice and style were not new to me. Live, she was witty, incisive and intimate as she spoke of how she is an early riser who needs immediacy. She checks her phone, the papers, makes coffee long before Trudeau arrives at the breakfast table.

At breakfast, Trudeau is quiet, while Pauley is eager to share. As they described their ritual, I perceived links to Marv’s and my story.  Like Pauley, Marv is up at dawn, in his sweats, checking his e-mail, writing a draft, then onto the elliptical long before I remove my sleep mask to open the shades. I am first at the table, eager to read the comics (yes, always Doonesbury), followed by the news. When Marv and I reconnoiter over fresh brewed coffee, like Pauley, I am eager to talk. Like Trudeau, Marv is quiet, but willing to listen.

Rosenblatt contrasted the complementary between men and women as he pointed out how women have a tendency to sense the whole of the story that allows them to pinpoint the essence. “That’s why I put puzzles together,” Pauley said. “That’s what I’m looking for. The story is part of the whole.”

When Marv has completed a working draft, I find it waiting at my place first thing— the unspoken request to read as soon as possible, to see the whole, ask the questions, so that he can get back to shaping and revising.

I am grateful for the remarkable opportunity to have seen Marv and myself in Pauley’s and Trudeau’s story, and to consider the communal patterns of story telling. For the rest of the month, I shall post more stories of Rosenblatt and friends, creative expression at Chautauqua.