Blissful moments for me lately involve pausing, usually from a sitting or horizontal position. The other day, when I intended to write this blog, instead I took to the couch with the latest Nick Hornby novel and a cup of tea. I can't believe how happy this made me. It occurred to me in that simple moment that pausing in life, is like making art.
Making art is all about framing. The artist chooses what is important and then puts a frame around it. If my blissful moment had been a scene in a movie (sorry, film), the camera might have zoomed in on my cup of tea and my face (played by Reese Witherspoon). There might be some emotive, dramatic music too. The artist would choose techniques to communicate to the viewer that this is important. In fact, the artist would have already made that choice by including the moment in the film in the first place. .
But of course in the day to day of our lives we don't have film crews, songwriters or painters following us around to frame the important moments of our lives and make meaning for us. We have to do that ourselves. Thank goodness.
Which is what I was going to write about on the weekend instead of reading my book. Sort of. I was thinking about storytelling in families. I have researched a lot of the history on both sides of my family tree. I'm lucky because I'm not the only person interested in genealogy in my family. So, when I set out to research my family, a lot of the basic work had already been done.
It's amazing to have all that information and be able to trace ancestors back ten generations or more. But there are frequently errors and omissions in the records we use to trace our family trees (birth, death, marriage and baptism certificates for example). We can never really know for certain what transpired in the past. As a storyteller, this frees me up to not worry about the details too much and to focus on the stories I want to tell. To frame what I want to frame. To frame what I think is meaningful.
Stories are magic. They keep the spirit of the past alive and for those of us who no longer live in our ancestral homelands (pretty much most of the world it seems) that can be incredibly grounding. To know where you are rooted is pretty powerful. For hundreds of years, people on both sides of my family lived within a very small radius of the world. Sometimes it still feels like my body is bewildered living on this other coast. Like it hasn't caught up yet with the fact that it is living somewhere different from all the generations before.
I have written a play, monologue really, about my maternal grandmother. The writing of that was surprising because I was able to weave together many seemingly unrelated stories, fragmented lines from stories and vignettes that I had collected over the years. The stories came to life as I wrote them. They rushed in and found each other. It was like they wanted to be together and be told. Like they didn't want to be forgotten. And so as the storyteller I believe that. I believe them. I believe the stories whether they happened exactly that way or not.
Just like I think Reese Witherspoon should play me whether you agree with me or not.