Types of Stories

I’ve been thinking about storytelling lately – to the point that I’m ready to commit to writing a NaNoWriMo novel in November (although who knows how committed I’ll be by the time November actually rolls around). So, I was especially interested when a conversation with an accomplished film-maker turned to story archetypes.

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Big Weekend

Tom and I have just gotten back from our weekend adventures, put the groceries in the pantry and refrigerator, and wolfed a bit of the fancy artesian bread we can’t get here with extra cheese and olives. It’s been a long and very full weekend.

I took the day off on Friday for my birthday (Saturday), and Tom and I left Thursday night after work for a quick backpacking trip. We saw many things, had great adventures, and hiked out Saturday morning.

Saturday afternoon we drove into the Bay Area for a friend’s memorial service on Sunday. We talked about goal-setting, and listened to the first bit of Unaccustomed Earth on the drive. That evening, our friends who graciously opened their house to us, treated me/us to a birthday dinner at Plearn, a local Thai restaurant. Really delicious non-European food and the good company of friends is such a treat.

The service on Sunday was beautiful, and touching. The stories celebrating such a remarkable man went on and on. I’m still processing – and just remembering.

Afterwards, we picked up a bed frame at Ikea that we had been eyeing for some time, and then drove to San Jose to meet up with Tom’s family, pick up the car we’d lent, and eat some pizza at a place nearby, Amicis, that serves gluten-free, and vegan options.

Monday morning, we had brunch with yet another friend before making the long drive back to Yosemite, pausing for a bear jam along the way.

I’m back on a frequent-post kick, so expect to hear more detailed stories unfold over the next few days. I’ve had a lot to think about.

Canon in Yosemite

Tom and a Canon photographer
Tom gets pointers from a Canon photographer.
The camera is one of the ones we borrowed
For the last several years, Canon Photography in the Parks has spent a couple of weeks in Yosemite. They have a stand set up right on the Yosemite Mall in front of the Visitor’s Center where you can sign up in advance to go on a 2-hour photo walk, get instruction from their staff photographers, and borrow their fancy-dance SLR cameras and lenses – for FREE. That’s exciting enough to repeat – FREE! FREE! FREE!

When you are finished with your walk, they keep track of which camera you used and therefore which chip your pictures are on, and then they send you an email later so that you can retrieve all of your images.

Tom and I have been thinking about new and improved lenses practically since we bought our new Canon XSi, and this is a great try before you buy option. The first time I visited their site, I saw the Photography Contest header and didn’t wait until the Flash loaded (on my medium speed connection, it takes a while), but their Yosemite schedule is posted there, as well as other parks that they will be visiting over the rest of the summer.

Another poem from The Writer’s Almanac really struck me a few weeks ago, Durum Wheat by Lisa Martin-Demoor. I find that I am reading these on a regular basis during natural breaks in the day. It doesn’t take long, and you sometimes find great gems, like the closing lines of this poem.

Durum wheat

by Lisa Martin-Demoor

Memory at its finest lacks corroboration
—no photographs, no diaries—
nothing to pin the past on the present with, to make it stick.
Just because you’ve got this idea
of red fields stretching along the tertiary roads
of Saskatchewan, like blazing, contained fires —
just because somewhere in your memory
there’s a rust-coloured pulse
taking its place among canola yellow
and flax fields the huddled blue of morning azures—
just because you want to
doesn’t mean you can
build a home for that old, peculiar ghost.

Someone tells you you’ve imagined it,
that gash across the ripe belly of summer,
and for a year, maybe two, you believe them.
Maybe you did invent it, maybe as you leaned,
to escape the heat, out the Pontiac’s backseat window
you just remembered it that way
because you preferred the better version.

Someone tells you this.
But what can they know of faith?
To ask you to leave behind this insignificance.
This innocence that can’t be proved: what the child saw
of the fields as she passed by, expecting nothing.

You have to go there while there’s still time.
Back to the red flag of that field, blazing in the wind.
While you’re still young enough to remember
a flame planted along a road. While you’re still
seeing more than there is to see.

“Durum wheat” by Lisa Martin-Demoor, from One Crow Sorrow. © Brindle & Glass, 2008.

Dude, we’re all Magicians

Sometimes, it’s the little things.

I got out of work late today. It was a long day, and I’m still recovering from this stupid cold so it felt longer than it was. My bike was parked at Curry Village, which meant that instead of a <5 minute bike ride, I was resigned to a whole 15 – 20 mintues to get home on foot. (I know, wah wah wah, but ANYWAY…)

I go about 100 feet from my building and start running into different friends. I really like being part of this little Yosemite community. Because we have so many visitors and so many seasonal positions, a lot of people don’t realize what a small-town atmosphere Yosemite has after you’ve been here a year or two. I stop to watch a Flicker in a tree, and again to watch another bird (don’t know what kind) dart through the air in the pursuit of insects.

On the Housekeeping Camp bridge, there are a bunch of kids sword-fighting with sticks. As I approach, one of them delivers a powerful Super Strike to one of his friends – palm out. “Super strike!” he yells. “Whoa, whoa, I say. Cease fire! Cease fire!” as I try to sneak past.

“Dude,” says the Super Striker, “We’re all Magicians.”

It’s one of those times that I wish my tongue was a bit quicker, and I could have come back with something like “I know that. What do you think I am? Stupid?” As I’m walking away I hear Super Striker’s voice again. “You can’t do that. If you leave the Bridge, you’re Dead.” I don’t turn around, but I imagine his friend turning mid-stride and to continue the battle on the bridge, and I smile.

Housekeeping Camp is really a great little place to stay, and I like walking by in the mornings or evenings as families are circling their chairs around a smoky fire and getting ready to start or wind down the day. Mornings are best when there is someone in their camp chair set up in the sunshine, facing out over the river absorbed in a book or some sketch, but I like the evenings too. Tonight, as I go by, one man is offering left-over dinner to his neighbors. “We always cook to much and then try to see if anyone around wants it,” he explains. The receiving family is delighted, and they are trying to come up with something in their supplies that they can give in return. The Burning Man people would be proud.

OK, so *really*, I gotta love my commute.

Sick Day

Ugh. Sick. I’ve taken a sick day from work and spent most of the day in bed. Thank goodness for nasal decongestants. At least it’s been a rainy inside sort of weekend. although Tom has managed a couple of day hikes with our guests while I slept and hid from the weather. Lots of down time means time to gather together a few loose ends over the last week.

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Daemons and Geniuses

There are a lot of amazing TED talks out there at this point, but this has got to be one of my favorites. Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the best-selling book Eat, Pray, Love, shares a new perspective on the creative process that goes back to the Greeks and Romans. It’s the idea that the creative energy comes from Somewhere Else – a creative daemon or genius that comes to work with the artist on her projects. She talks about how this idea helps her to approach her writing with a more positive and healthy mental outlook and tells us incredible stories of the creative process of the poet Ruth Stone. It’s only 18 minutes long. Watch it.