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Going Home – Through Story

February 5, 2015


Gleasons Lake, Wayzata, Minnesota – Christmas 2014.

In the fifty plus years since I left it, almost everything about my hometown has changed – except the lake. Even standing on the shore in the snow, I can almost hear the lapping of the water, smell the warm weedy shore, and feel the sun on my face as I pull the oars of the old rowboat through the water.  The sun is high, I’m hot, and I’m headed for the middle of the lake for a swim. As I squint, perspiring, into the sun, the oars creak, and water sloshes around my ankles. But…soon…soon… I’ll be cool.
It’s a December night – weeks before Christmas. We’ve just had a very cold snap – with no snow – and no wind. All day, my brothers and I have been excited; we know what that means: black ice – not lumpy, bumpy expanses of  dirty grey-white ice covered with snow that we’ll have to shovel – but black ice… clean … and smooth as glass. Daddy went out to check it this afternoon and has given the OK. Tonight – we take off…across the lake. The moon is almost full; the sky is cloudless and the air is biting cold. We take off together, all four of us, whooping and hollering. But soon, in the vast blue-black space in front of us, we grow silent as we glide along. Every now and then, there is a loud CRACK! – and a moment of fear. But Daddy said it’s safe, so we go on. Our fingers and noses are getting numb, but we don’t care… It feels like this night could go on and on forever….

Today, the town I used to live in is almost unrecognizable and the house I lived in is gone. But the lake is still there. And through story…I can bring it all back.

When I first began work as a storyteller, I searched diligently for stories I thought would be unique and exotic. I was sure that people didn’t want to listen to stories about ordinary people doing ordinary things. It took me years to realize that – through story – the ordinary can become extraordinary; that finely crafted personal stories can be a touchstone – not just for the teller who lived the experience – but for his or her audience as well. These stories can bring teller and audience together in a way that no other type of story can. And for the teller, there is a hidden benefit; we get to live it – all over again.

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