Friday, December 02, 2005

Pacing...elements of story

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Though the photos in this scrapbook layout weren't taken today, they could have been. It has snowed here, enough to bring out those of us who live for the white stuff. After having my coffee, I piled into my gear and was on my way to the trails at the area nature center. Nearly pristine. Completely still. Whatever does any of this have to do with story or storytelling?


Pacing is an element that is often overlooked in storytelling, especially as we are just delving into the craft. Nervousness rushes us along, never allowing the quiet spaces for the images to develop in the mind's eye of our listener. I think there are elements beyond nervousness at work as well. Prime among these is the frantic pace at which we usually move through our days and our lives. For many of us, it's been so long since we could move at our own pace, taking in the world in those small delicious bites. This is one of the reasons I so appreciate nature. It forces me to slow that pace.

Even kicking and gliding through the woods, I have to slow down. There are birds overhead, so of course I need to stop, observe, identify. Listen. The snow, still covering the sides of the trees, suddenly begins to drop, hitting the sides of other trees and my shoulders, making a tiny pinging sound all around me, swirling. It's a sound I'd never even hear if I were to rush through the snow.

Refreshed and exiliarated, I can't simply rush home, either. I know that I'll ache after this first of many outings on my skis, and further effort will help to burn off that lactic acid. The marsh isn't far, and winter's chill has transformed it completely. Again, as I walk with binoculars and camera in hand, I stop and quiet myself often. A kingfisher rattles continously, taunting me to come closer as he dives to the water in the river. The water itself gurgles in the still cold air, passing the barrier of a fallen tree. Brown Creepers will not be seen, even though I can hear them, unless I stand still and wait patiently, watching for "bark" to climb up a tree.

Watching the kingfisher, a movement in the snow across the river catches my eye, revealing itself to be a mink, playing in the snow. I've never seen a mink! I walk these trails year round, but perhaps I've just been walking too fast.

Taking the time to slow one's pace, to appreciate the images, the silence following the falling snow, allows me to understand this need for pacing. It takes time to grow an image in all its senses; the sight of the snow, the sound of it falling, the soft touch as it melts on my cheek, the chilly breeze that brought it there. A storyteller would do well to spend a long day in nature, in all seasons, enjoying it at its own pace. Allow yourself to stop, listen and observe your own reaction, bringing that appreciation back to your telling.