I have been to the mountaintop!
Why did I wait so long to get there? Though I've been actively involved in storytelling and the storytelling community for over ten years, I'd never climbed the mountain that is the National Storytelling Festival, affectionately called by its devotees as simply "Jonesborough." Always, I'd be drawn, but that October date conflicted with my teaching contract. The travel to eastern Tennessee just seemed like a long haul I could ill afford to make.
This year, I made that long haul. After returning home, I can only ask myself...Whatever made me think this would be a long haul?
I can't even begin to describe the whole experience, so I'll take it in small chunks for a few days here. I'd often heard others describe the enormous sense of "too much" upon returning home from the Festival. Not in a bad way, no, not at all. More in a way of "too much to ever hope to enjoy in the short time we're transported here."
Indeed. Though I tried every possible permutation, I was not quite able to catch every single featured teller. Maybe it is possible, perhaps someone else reading this can explain to me how to do that, but even Nancy Donoval, one of the emcees, made the comment, "You can't ever see them all!" I came very close, but not quite.
In three days of wandering the charming streets of Jonesborough, I realized it's too much to hope to see everyone who might have also made the pilgrimage. It wasn't until Sunday afternoon that I ever saw my friend Maureen Korte from Des Moines, though she'd been at the Festival the entire time. I still wonder who else was there and never seen by me.
It's almost too much to try and take in the magical setting of Jonesborough itself, with its charming Main Street, horse drawn carriages appearing regularly throughout the day. The town itself is tucked in a valley within the Great Smoky Mountains, necessitating too much up and down hill climbing, which I actually found refreshing after being seated in the tents.
Ah, the tents. Several of them. Filled to capacity, capacity being around a thousand seats, I'm told. Storytelling enthusiasts from all over the country filled those seats, and they were more likely to be listeners than tellers. It's almost too much to believe there exists such a place, a place where people know that storytelling is not reading a story from a book.
The talent, oh the talent. Too much of that as well, so much so that the talent deserves an entry all its own. Bill Harley, Donald Davis, Ed Stivender, Milbre Burch, Gayle Ross, Kevin Kling, to name but a few.
Too much of everything, yet never enough. This is my impression of my first, but not last, National Storytelling Festival.