Boundaries and Borderlands: A Storyteller's Dream

Recently I've been rolling the ideas of narrative in my brainpan, much like a few poet friends have been doing with the ideas of poetics. Lots of stress out there in poetryland I've heard, which is a sad sort of thing since stress can shut down the old creativity center until that wonderful burst of energy wells up saying "I will /not/ be silenced!"

What is it about the arts that makes folks seemingly mistake 'being helpful' and 'just giving advice' with crossing boundaries onto creative sacred ground?

Creating the space to create art takes a tremendous amount of energy, not a small amount of hutspah, and a general sort of ego-arrogance needed to make a dream materialize from the very ether in which we exist. No small feat for your average artist who already feels 'outside' the mainstream; a damn miracle for the artist who finds herself on the borderlands of gender, race, sexuality, familial relationship, age, economy, and/or politics.

It's easy to slip into a mode of 'protecting our own' by advising certain restraint or the application of certain behaviors designed to placate a generalized, mainstream, dominant Other. The result, however, can be a compromise of artistic integrity and an erosion of the artists creativity and vision. Leveling the field then, flattens what could otherwise be a richer, multidimensional experience for both artist and viewer/experiencer.

But weird things often happen on the borderlands: the richness of culture can be reduced to a shorthand designed to accomodate the slipperiness of living so close and yet so far from the Center; commodities can be perceived as being in short supply; identity is built on a sense of opposites which in turn causes the psyche to internalize Otherness in search of a community. I've learned from the Greymyn who prefer the fog over clear days, the shoreline over the deep woods, the twilight over the midday sun, that the borderlands are an interesting place to travel, but it's really nice to be home once in awhile. A place to rest, share stories, and just enjoy the in-between of adventuring.

I met a new storyteller yesterday, a Tlingit storyteller who's blood carries the memory and understanding of the Tlingit, Cherokee, and Filpino. He was only the second Native American I had ever heard speak about his Filipino heritage. I wondered what deer adobo tasted like. IndoFilipino he called himself.

And he drummed songs, sang thanksgiving and love, beat feet like Hare and swooped like Raven. His grandmother, the Pinay, came to visit and explained how her heart had been gravely wounded from all the colonists insistance to be 'civilized,' how taking a hammer to fix the wounds had not helped, how drinking wine had not helped, how having four lovers (one for each direction) did not help. No, she found her wisdom, her healing in a book. A small book, a thin book, a picture book.

Everyone Poops

And that book, she said, healed her. Helped her realize that what gets taken in and what gets pushed out of our bodies is really the same no matter who you are or what you've done.

And that storyteller told us "You are all storytellers! When you introduce yourself say 'I am a storyteller!'" And he showed us the secret hand gestures that would prove our validity. There was even the special chin lift reserved for us Indo-Pinoys by blood or by culture.

And I laughed and I cried. Because I /knew/ this is what it is all about for me, the writing, the decolonization, the dismantling of master narratives about women and race and literature.

It's about healing. It's about love. It's about home.

And if it's not about that, then it's not about me. And if it's not about me, then it's not my story. And if it's not my story, then I don't have time, inclination, or right to tell it.

So here's to the Raven who danced. Time for this Otter to do her thing.

1 comment:

Sky said...

*snerk grin*

"I am... a story teller!"

*secret handsign here*


Do your thing! ^_^