In Loving Memory of Lawrence J. Larry" Gimple
A true friend of the park and indeed all of nature
I immediately started wondering who this guy was, what he did for nature and for the parks, and what led his family and friends to make a bench a fitting tribute. I became fascinated with the idea, as I myself have an affinity for nature and National Parks. Would we have been friends? Did he work for Parks and Rec, as I once had? What was Larry's story? A bench didn't seem to do it justice.
A couple hours later in the museum I visited the Danny Lyon photography exhibit. Lyon is a photographer who managed to capture poignant images of everything from the Civil Rights Movement to the destruction of Lower Manhattan. One of his most known subjects is the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club, which he had joined to better know and document their lifestyle. I stopped a bit longer than usual at an image titled "Kathy", which has a placard next to it relaying that Kathy was the wife of one of the bikers, and she was Lyon's favorite storyteller. To my bemusement, a speaker was set below the picture, with Kathy's voice emanating, telling a quite ordinary story about meeting one of the bikers. The subject was simple, but the story was detailed, explaining the scenery, the sounds and even smells. I was mesmerized - what a fascinating exhibit to capture the simple beauty of a well-told story - and here it was, immortalized for all to see and hear.
From the placard, the word "storyteller" stayed with me. How I loved that word! What high-praise to be deemed a favorite storyteller! Until that moment I felt a good storyteller was an author, a writer, an artist, even an actor. But there in front of me was the multi-faceted image of Kathy, a favorite, not at all famous, storyteller.
This theme continued throughout my trip. The next day I sat with a friend in a coffee shop, staring out the window and creating stories for all the people passing by. Afterwords while walking back to the hotel I lost a bit of sense and started to walk out in the middle of traffic. He stopped me from essentially killing myself and said it was "the first story [I had] to tell when [I] returned home." I remember clearly he said the word story because it immediately brought my mind back to Kathy and her ability to tell a good story. Now I had one to tell as well.
|Sign by the statue|
We then traveled back across the country to Washington DC. On my last day in DC, I purchased a ticket to see one of my new favorite movies, La La Land. Now, I had seen this movie before... more than once... and seeing it again was a bit frivolous, but I wanted something simple to end my vacation, and the melancholy ending was exactly what I needed on the eve of returning home. I'd seen this movie several times prior, but I hadn't noticed (or, rather, it didn't mean much before) that towards the end, at one of Mia's auditions, the casting manager directs her to "Tell a story" and when Mia seems confused she clarifies "You're a storyteller, aren't you?". What followed is what had always been my favorite song from the film - Audition (Fools that Dream) - a song that tells a story and encourages the people who dare to dream and tell these stories. Perfection.
Assuredly, storytelling is not a new concept. Oral Storytelling is an ancient tradition, without which we wouldn't know a good sum of our history. Forgive me from stealing from Wikipedia here:
The storyteller reveals, and thus shares, him/her self through his/her telling and the listeners reveal and share themselves through their reception of the story. The intimacy and connection is deepened by the flexibility of oral storytelling which allows the tale to be moulded according to the needs of the audience and/or the location or environment of the telling.... Storytelling creates a personal bond with the teller and the audience.
Imagine that - all this thought and talk about how I wanted to be a favorite storyteller and soon I realized I had been a storyteller all my life. Ever the talker, I was the daughter who always ran up to her father when he returned home to say "Hey, hey, Daddy, know what?" followed by a story of very little importance. My sister and I created plays for our parents (evidence embarrassingly below) and though they didn't tell a clear story, the intention was always there--I'm sure it was better in my head. I remember one time my parents had a party for church at a parishioner's house and our pastor walked into the children's play room and found all the children surrounding me as I told the story of the nativity.
Yes. This is how I tell stories. Fun fact: I don't think I ever really danced in public after this video. Singing I got better at.
As a child and teenager, I was a writer, always keeping a journal and readily sharing it with friends when they came to stay over. I published fanfiction and original pieces on the ever-growing internet. I loved History and Literature - the subjects of stories and how we learn from them. I was, and still am, an avid reader and movie-goer, a watcher and witness of stories. My parents were always suspicious when I begged them to leave the house and leave me alone for a little, but really I just spent the time daydreaming and acting out the stories I made in my mind - sometimes I preferred to be a private storyteller. I was a lector at church and always jumped at the possibility of giving a witness talk - sometimes I preferred to be a very public storyteller as well.
Thinking back on all this, I thought it was something I lost - the ability to tell stories in such a way I connect with the people I'm speaking with. "Adulting" took over, finding a job, looking for a purpose. I was happy to notice, when I looked at it intrinsically - when I remember meeting with old friends and talking about important events, when I look back on this blog, when I scroll through my Instagram - it's something that's never really left me. It just shows itself in odd ways sometimes, rather different ways.
I train at work. It's one of my favorite aspects - talking to my newest coworkers, helping them adjust, helping them succeed. I train by telling stories. I talk about my own failures and successes. I talk about changes I've seen in my own short time in the industry. Sometimes I even go into stories in my personal life, if needed. I train through stories. I guess, in a sense, that makes me a professional storyteller.
Not too long ago, not understanding this label, I rejected it. I was getting breakfast with my best friend, telling him a story when I realized I had dominated the entire conversation, and I was probably making the simplest of instances into a huge dramatic saga. I stopped myself and apologized for being so melodramatic--I don't always love this aspect about myself and sometimes wish I could find a way to change it. He then stopped me and said, "No, I like that you do that. You live every part of your life like it's an important scene in a book or movie, an essential plot line. You make yourself the star of your own story."
So, keeping that in mind, I'm not sure where my story will lead me next. I have little control as to what happens, but I can promise that I will continue to tell my story - because I think it's worth telling. Hopefully, like the ancient oral storytellers, through my story I can continue to form connections with new and old friends. Likewise, I am anxious to continue listening to my favorite storytellers and learn from them as well. You never know what you might learn from a well-told story.
There's a theme in Lin Manuel Miranda's Hamilton that relays "You have no control who....... tells your story." I suppose that's true. I don't know if those to whom I tell my stories will relay them, or merely put my name on a park bench as a friend of nature. Forever someone who refuses to relinquish control, I am certainly dedicated to telling my own story. And I hope that you, the reader, my friend, will take control and tell yours as well. I'd love to hear it.