Humans have sat around listening to stories since we lived in caves. Why do we like stories so much? There are countless reasons.
We tell stories to connect, to seek and find empathy, to delight, to comfort, to amuse, to give our lives purpose and meaning, to understand the world from different perspectives, to organize knowledge and pass it on to others, to comprehend deep truths through myths and legends, to perceive patterns from chaos, and to make sense of our world.
The art of live story telling is experiencing a revival. “The Moth Radio Hour,” launched in 1997, is a podcast where “true stories, told live and without notes,” are told to audiences worldwide. Story slams usually have a theme, a time limit, and are judged by the crowd.
In 2017, Dawn Woodruff, former Twisp librarian, started the Methow Valley’s first story slam, “My Story.” Dawn said she got the idea for “My Story” from a friend who knew a man with Alzheimer’s disease that “had good stories to tell and needed to tell them before it was too late.”
Twisp Friends of the Library have been instrumental in keeping the program going, coming in early to set up, bringing in refreshments and staying late to put everything away. “My Story” is not usually themed, but it must be a true story, the narrator’s story, have a story arc, and be no longer than 15 minutes.
On Thursday evening (Dec. 7), the 14th “My Story” was held at the Twisp Library. Ree West, the new Twisp librarian, explained the rules and made the introductions. I wasn’t able to hear all four stories, but what follows is a brief synopsis of the stories I was able to listen to.
Barth Merrill, a retired Navy family physician, said that by nature and profession, he was a collector of other people’s stories, but learning the story about the father of one of his employees made him realize how important it was to take the time to know something more intimate about every person he encountered in his work. He delivered his talk in a calm, measured and poignant manner — like a professional storyteller.
Roxie Miller, well-known by many of us because of her contributions to Methow Valley conservation, the Shafer Museum, and Campaign for the Sunny M Ranch, told a story rich in memories of Christmases past, displaying object after object saved from her long life, each object with a story attached.
Roxie held up an ancient and faded box that once contained her first Christmas ornaments (only 89 cents!), ornaments hand-made by her mother, an angel that topped most of her trees through the years, an ornament constructed from Mount St. Helens ash, a macaroni angel given to her by a granddaughter, and a dairy cow ornament gifted by a friend for a dairy farmer’s daughter. Best of all, she modeled a hand-made and hand-embroidered jacket, a present from her mother when her family lost all their dairy cattle to shipping fever, and her family made rather than purchased Christmas gifts.
Jane Hill gave a great performance reminiscing about learning Methow Valley mores when she first came to the Valley, growing up inept in sports and dreading PE classes, and learning from her mistakes. She compared her experiences as a long-time schoolteacher with the current zeitgeist in education where “students don’t get to learn from their mistakes; they’re never told they’re wrong, and their self-esteem must be bolstered at all costs.” She speculated that this form of education might have something to do with today’s divisive politics.
Because we’re human, all of us would like to tell our stories, to connect with each other, to be understood, to be heard. Here in this valley, we have a small but vital opportunity to do this very thing. Got a story? Check out “My Story.”