More about stories…

Yesterday I attended a memorial for a young man, the son and stepson of members of my Quaker meeting. The memorial was in the manner of Quaker worship, where people are encouraged to share stories about the person’s life out of the gathered silence. I think about memorials I’ve attended and have found they are amazing experiences in many ways. It is wonderful that they are celebrations of the person’s life. We learn about how the person has affected others in ways we weren’t aware of. It is also nice to see those who aren’t familiar with Quaker worship feel free to speak to the gathering, and to hear so many tell of how much they appreciated the memorial afterward.

Yesterday’s memorial had those same characteristics, but there were somewhat different stories shared by the community of friends of this young man, people who on the whole seem to especially creative and exploring life a bit beyond the mainstream. I was very moved by the insights shared.

I believe stories are so important to share with each other. I try to articulate stories on this blog. There is another blog dedicated to Quaker stories here:

ALL THAT WE ARE IS STORY. From the moment we are born to the time we continue on our spirit journey, we are involved in the creation of the story of our time here. It is what we arrive with. It is all we leave behind. We are not the things we accumulate. We are not the things we deem important. We are story. All of us. What comes to matter then is the creation of the best possible story we can while we’re here; you, me, us, together. When we can do that and we take the time to share those stories with each other, we get bigger inside, we see each other, we recognize our kinship — we change the world one story at a time.

Richard Wagamese (October 14, 1955-March 10, 2017)
Ojibwe from Wabeseemoong Independent Nations, Canada

When the order to move on comes, the Warrior looks at all the friends he has made during the time that he followed the path. He taught some to hear the bells of a drowned temple, he told others stories around the fire. His heart is sad, but he knows that his sword is sacred and that he must obey the orders of the One to whom he offered up his struggle. Then the Warrior thanks his traveling companions, takes a deep breath and continues on, laden with memories of an unforgettable journey.

Coelho, Paulo. Warrior of the Light: A Manual (p. 133). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

In contrast with some of the other media personnel who showed up to capture the stories of the water protectors at Standing Rock, Rivas was intentional about giving before he took. Observing tradition, he would show up with tobacco to offer before asking permission to document a person’s experience. Rivas even incorporates this into his language about the work, straying away from the traditional framework of “taking” photos — “because I don’t take. I create. I’m not taking photographs, I’m creating images.”
Rivas also acknowledges that “it’s an intimate thing, when you have a camera.” A photograph belongs both to the subject and the photographer, but the subject is usually in a more vulnerable position — especially in a place like Standing Rock, where people were making sacrifices, and grappling with all sorts of issues and traumas. These wounds are communicated both with tenderness and frankness in Rivas’s work.

I could hand you a braid of sweetgrass, as thick and shining as the plait that hung down my grandmother’s back. But it is not mine to give, nor yours to take. Wiingaashk belongs to herself. So I offer, in its place, a braid of stories meant to heal our relationship with the world. This braid is woven from three strands: indigenous ways of knowing, scientific knowledge, and the story of an Anishinabekwe scientist trying to bring them together in service to what matters most. It is an intertwining of science, spirit, and story—old stories and new ones that can be medicine for our broken relationship with earth, a pharmacopoeia of healing stories that allow us to imagine a different relationship, in which people and land are good medicine for each other.

Kimmerer, Robin Wall. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants . Milkweed Editions. Kindle Edition.
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