The gaping mouth, open wide with intrigue and anticipation.
The eyes transfixed, yearning for what comes next.
The one, or more than one, who interrupts to ask questions. Often, "Is this real??"
Many assume storytelling is meant for children. Those imaginative tales with talking animals and scenes that defy what we accept as "real."
I can't help but wonder if storytelling lands so well with children, not because it is meant for them, but because they are more skilled at listening. Perhaps their ability to receive the power, the magic, the meaning in stories surpasses our own?
Recently I was asked to assist with an outdoor play grief support group with Playful Mindset, a new organization focused on children's mental health. We knew that storytelling would have an important role in making space for dialogue about death for the children in the group. Each of them had lost a parent, and a story told by an adult about their personal lived experience of their own parent's death led to one of the most beautiful conversations sharing memories and hard feelings with one another.
That's the thing about telling a story. It doesn't have to be dramatic and well-rehearsed. It can be simple, and yet still have a way of reaching the tender parts of us that may need attention and nurturing.
A friend, and storytelling mentor of mine, Danny English, recently shared these words, which I think captures the beauty of storytelling for both teller and listener:
"The reciprocal relationship between storyteller and listener happens so intuitively and is like no other: as a teller, you give the gift of the story; within it lies a key that unlocks gateways to hidden places and meanings that have been long buried away. Anybody who has been told a story has felt this.
But, as the teller, I have always been grateful for the gift received in return: the mystical, hypnotic gaze of the meandering listener inviting me along as they skip down a merry and magical avenue to a world of enchantment. To witness a traveller of this type carried on your words and the words of many who came before is a privilege only every witnessed by those who speak the story"
For many years, storytelling enticed and intimidated me. A lot. It took me a long time and a totally unexpected opportunity on an outdoor stage in a hemlock forest that pushed me to try it.
Then I became utterly enamoured.
And you know what's special? I'm returning to that place where I told my very first story next February to teach a graduate level course... about... storytelling.
I'll share more about it in the new year, but for anyone interested in taking a sneak peak of this new in-person course Re-Story Our World, head here for more info. Registration is open both for Academic Credit or a highly discounted Continuing Education Certificate and spots are limited.
Though it's a university level course, do not worry if you don't consider yourself "academic!" The university I'm partnering with and I deeply value accessibility for people of all learning preferences and needs.
My aim with this course is not to make us all professional storytellers but to inspire us to weave the craft into our practice as educators and caregivers the best we can, and spread a little more magic in this world...
Caylin (Forest Schooled)