Walking the Starry Path

“‘It’s up there in the sky for us all to see, a prayer every night.
A good story fill you up when you hungry, when you lonely.
A good song take the hurting out your spirit.
No harm believing in that.’ She gave him a wind-up music box.
‘Play this and think of the stars smiling on you.'”

from From Redwood and Wildfire
by Andrea Hairston

When I was a young child, my mother had two sure fire ways to get me to go to bed. My favorite was when she would read me to sleep. As I drifted off, riding the rhythms of her voice, I would often continue to weave the tale in my dreams. My dreamtales became so real to me that I was sometimes surprised when she read the same stories to me again and they finished in a different way than I remembered.

The other was to tune the radio to “fairie music.” (Looking back, I suppose it was the name I gave to classical orchestrations that purred rather than crashed.) Sometimes, Mother would be frustrated in trying to find a station playing just the right kind of sweet music I wanted. But when she did, it billowed through my mind, guiding me to see stars dancing and to feel the breeze of dreams. The music, like the stories, carried me to a place in my imagination that existed beyond the here and now.

When I speak to audiences about storytelling, I often say that it is hardwired into the human psyche. From the beginning of time, stories have been the way we teach and learn, how we communicate and think, the pattern we give to our questions about the world around us and the shape we try to give to our beliefs and attempts to understand.

But I must go one step further… Story is who and what I am, how I try to understand myself, my world, my uncertainties and my fears. How I try to make sense of love and hate, anger and sorrow.

I have never stopped attempting to finish my mother’s tales. It’s what drives me forward and burbles within my subconscious, flavoring my days and especially my nights.

I am a storyteller. It is my mother’s gift to me. And her curse. And the song her soul sings to me of what may come.

Sometimes, late at night when I can’t sleep, I lie there in bed, staring at the dark ceiling far above my head, and I hear the rhythm of new words, the tune of a fairie’s harp from far away, and it carries me away from the thoughts and fears that plague my mind. And I walk the starry path to another story to be dreamed.

Inviting My Fictional Characters to Tea

Self-portrait: Sally Wiener Grotta, storyteller“Welcome home, my dear friends. Please sit. Let’s catch up on what’s happened since you were last with me. Rishana and Judith , I’m sure you have a lot to share with each other, but please, not behind my back. Johanna , I suggest that you have a chat with Savah, she might be able to help you. Ryl and Joe, you know where the scones are; please bring them from the kitchen, while we await the others. Now, where were we?”

About a week ago, I was sitting in the glow of the Lag B’Omer bonfire, when Rabbi Peg Kershenbaum asked me what I was doing these days. A loaded question, to be sure, what with Read More