Open your eyes. The sun keeps rising on a home sighed into the hills. Remember life as spills of broken toys and old tools across the lawn. Gravel can undulate, too, in heaps along the driveway, even against the rhythmic crunch of footsteps. Note the details. The recycling is coiled fencer wire. It’s Pepsi cans the whole way down. Eye of lapis lazuli. The flicker and flow of wood grain looks like water, the screen door an invitation. When talk is easy, notice how your fists ball on your hips. Notice the toothy grin. These movements hold meaning.
Look around. Fog drapes and sun floods. Kudzu even covers the telephone poles; it’s myopic green. Branches of black oak, hemlock, and birch catch the wind, rippling uncertainty. Listen. From the morning dove’s lonely coo to the katydid’s squall of feedback at night, everything is alive in a wall of noise.
Feel something. Feel horizon’s soft line trace your collar. Take a hard swallow. Feel the hum in your spine when the indelible moment hits. Count the cyclic twitches in your chest and know they will go on forever. There is a pulse. It is eternity.
* * * * * * *
ASP staffers headed back to Jonesville as our summer came to a close. For many staffs, wrap-up was the first time they had seen their peers since training, and they were eager to catch each other up. Circles of rocking chairs dotted The Porch from dawn til dusk, all stories all the time. The naked plea of please, understand this tinged every conversation. You could physically see how much it meant for them to share. With each story, their breath became lighter, eyes opened a little wider, and empathy became the mirrored facial expressions the others made to show that they were really listening: the ooohs, the laughs, the heads shaking in disbelief. Something beautiful happens when you stop talking and let someone explain their world to you.
In a bit of doctored fun during our last session, each county told a 2-minute story and a haiku summing up their summer to the entire staff. Timer included. Staff spoke a mile a minute, cramming the breadth of their experience into a syllable-filled kaleidoscopic colliding whirlwind. It was mad fun. Everyone held ear-to-ear smiles, and we sat with our knees pulled in. It felt fitting that the last thing we left each other with was a piece of ourselves, the part we felt we needed to share.
Stories are transformative. They spool out the fabric of our ever-changing opinion. They sharpen our values. Stories are how we shape meaning in a world that resists even the most nuanced interpretation. But two minutes and a haiku doesn’t scratch the surface. And really, no one can know all the stories ASP staffers have experienced this summer. No one can know the weight of their sum. What matters is the lessons learned from them. How they stay with us. How they change us. How they determine what we do next.
Story Gathering Intern