Monday, May 27, 2013

Coffee Table Folklore

This week I sat at a black wrought iron bistro table. It was one of many on the pebbled sidewalk of “Coffee Street”. One city-block long, the street boasts several national chain coffee shops attached to brand name bookstores that now replace what used to be independently owned establishments.

Now, as back then, the late May sun is generous. Coffee drinkers, like sunflowers, sit outside turning their faces to the warm light. They bask in its summer-is-coming promise.

At the table next to me were two older, retired men who were reminiscing about their respective careers. While I was not eavesdropping, I was able to hear an occasional partial sentence. I was struck by how even just a phrase conjured up the start of a folktale.

For example:

“When I was in Nigeria we didn’t worry about that…” said the light-haired man. 

Worried about what? I wanted to know. What was going on at the time that would have caused worry and how was that worry handled?

Ever on the lookout for living folktales, I was tempted to lean over and tell them to preserve the folktales they were telling one another. Concerned about appearing to be nosy, I said nothing. Instead I wondered whether or not they even knew they were telling each other folktales.

Most people don’t.

That’s the rub for me. Especially when it takes literally only minutes at a time to preserve a folktale that can be shared with others long after we are no longer around to do the telling ourselves.

Either one of those men could have jotted down bullet points about what they were sharing. At a later time they could have gone back to those bullet points and flushed them out into a sentence or two… maybe even three. And that would have constituted a folktale their families and friends could have enjoyed for years to come.

It’s really that simple. So the next time you find yourself telling others something about your life, try to find a few moments afterwards to jot down somenotes about that folktale-in-the-making.

With such a skeleton you can add sentences here and there until the folktale has been fleshed out, so to speak.

You (and others) will be glad you did!

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