Sunday, 27 October 2013

Story Time

A Hassidic parable tells about a certain rabbi who, whenever danger threatened his flock, could avert the evil by performing three rituals: going to a special place in the forest, lighting a fire and saying a prayer. When his successor needed to pray for his people’s protection, he confessed he’d forgotten how to light the fire, but he entered the forest and he said the prayer, and it was enough. The next rabbi had to confess that he had forgotten the place in the forest, and how to light the fire, but he said the prayer, and it was enough. Finally there was a rabbi who said to God, “I’ve forgotten the place in the forest, and I’ve forgotten how to light the fire, and I’ve forgotten the prayer, but I do know the story. Dear God, I hope it is enough to protect my people.” And it was enough.

“God made people because he loves stories,” concludes Jewish writer Elie Wiesel when he quotes this parable in the preface to his book The Gates of the Forest.

This past week was a good week because I heard a lot of stories. Al told me an exciting story of how Solay caught his very first fish ever when they went down to the river to fish (For another fishing story about Solay and his Opa's fishing click on the post for  Sept. 7, Let's Go Down to the River). A woman told me an amazing story about how her family was finally able to say “I love you” to each other. A friend told me a story about being a young wife and mother living in a high rise in Montreal. And here’s my story about a story that moved me:

Last Saturday, I attended a gathering of quilters from various guilds on the North Island. Among other things, we’d been challenged to create a quilt that included circles or wheels. They were all interesting in their own way, and it was hard to vote for the best. Although Marilyn’s quilt did not win the challenge, she told this story about her quilt:

The Wheels Go Round challenge quilt by Marilyn Schick.

“I grew up on a farm in southern Saskatchewan, with 3 brothers and 3 sisters. One day, my dad came home from a farm auction with his grain truck filled with wheels of all shapes and sizes. They were piled high right up to the top, and we wondered what he was planning to do with all of them. He told us to go to the small hill in the pasture, and he drove the truck to the top of that small hill, then dumped all the wheels out. They went rolling and bouncing down the hill to the bottom – what a sight! Then Dad told us they were ours to do with what we liked. Well, we put our heads together, and we decided to build a house. We built a huge house with those wheels as the walls. There was a living room, dining room, bedrooms, kitchen. Dad made some window frames for us, helped put on a roof made of boards and sheets of metal, and we hauled bales of straw to cover the floor and make furniture. The cattle often came and stuck their noses in through the doors and windows. Anytime we wanted to have a little time to ourselves, we would go to our wheel house and sit there, maybe read or play by ourselves. Our play house lasted for years. My dad was a great dad. He died in April, and this hanging, with circles bouncing all over, is a tribute to him.”

The quilt was beautiful, but it was the story that moved me. I was transported to my own childhood, when I also felt that thrill of possibilities. That’s what the best stories do -- they call up an awareness of our inner selves, and give us new insights. They help us find our common connections with others. Family stories give us a sense of roots, help us shape our identity, and let us come to understand each other. And that can only be good.  “Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can't remember who we are or why we're here,” wrote Sue Monk Kidd in The Secret Life of Bees.

Any kind of art can be used to tell stories: quilts, yes, and words, of course, but painting, dance, music, theatre, film ... well, just about anything.

But all are a gift to the human race, and a gift back to the Creator who started our story.

 My thanks to Marilyn Schick of the Comox Valley Schoolhouse Quilters who generously shared her story, her gifts and her heart with us.

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