I’m a story-catcher.
This idea first came to me when I watched the movie, The Songcatcher, about a female music professor who goes into Appalachia to collect the mountain folk music of the region. I realized that not only do I tell stories, but I recognize and collect them.
A caught story has to be processed to be retold. Otherwise we are just repeating a story. How do we make a caught story our own? Invite it inside, let it distill and pour it into your words with your emotions and elucidation.
While I am a writer and not a musician, I look to songcatchers to understand the creative spirit of collection. Emmylou Harris is one of my favorite songcatchers. She’s described as a “discoverer and interpreter of other artists’ songs.” Yet she gives the songs back to us with a clarity of meaning.
A story-catcher strives to achieve the same. To take the story and expose its deepest core, to reveal its hidden meaning. And so I am dreaming of such things as I write, listening to Emmylou.
Days 14 & 15 word count: 3,690
Thought for Days 14 & 15:
To live a creative life we must first lose the fear of being wrong. ~ Joseph Chilton Pearce
This is true of our writing. To find the creative heart of our story, we must write with a willingness to be wrong. Editing is about clarity and correctness; writing is about the creativity.
Excerpt From Rock Creek:
Sally walked out on the porch with Lizzie in a full cry. “I’m sorry, I just can’t seem to calm her.”
No one could seem to calm Lizzie. Born blue, she was fussier than Mary’s previous babies. Yet she grew to be a strong and hefty baby. Although a girl, she took after the big bones of her father. Her hair was blond in that early McCanles way like summer-wheat that would one day turn as dark as molasses. Only Julius had Mary’s black hair and only Lizzie her bright blue eyes.
“Here, I’ll take her.” Lizzie laid her head on Mary’s shoulder. She was over a year old and strong, but she still did not walk and she didn’t vocalize in the same way Mary recalled her boys babbling by this time, testing vocal cords. It didn’t help that Cob avoided even looking at his own daughter. Not that he ever had much to do with the boys as babies. It might just be Lizzie’s constant fussing. God knows Mary grew tired of it at times and was grateful when Sally came over, although she dearly missed Julia. In a recent letter, Julia invited Mary to stay through the fall harvest. It was tempting.
“Who’s that riding up the way?” Sally looked with her hand shading the afternoon sun.
Mary recognized her father and her brother Adam. She sighed and stayed on the porch.Her brother waved as they approached, but neither man got off his horse.
“Hello, Father, Adam.”
The men nodded. Adam asked, “Cob around?”
“No. He rode off to tend to business.”
“Games, more like,” said Joseph.
“Point is, Father, he’s not here.” Mary continued to sway slightly and she hoped by the sound of Lizzie’s breathing, she had finally nodded off.
“The Whigs have no more power. Their short-lived ideas for economic expansion are short-lived and Cob is going to have to decide where he stands. With or without his neighbors.” Adam leaned forward on his horse, saddle leather creaking.
Before Mary could tell her brother to move along, Sally spoke up. “My husband Leroy backs the Constitutional Unionists and stresses the importance of this nation standing together in unity, just like neighbors.”
“That’s my point. We need to stand together and be a part of the secession that’s coming.”
“No. Secession is not unity.” Sally had her hands on her hips, but she had no idea of the ire she was going to raise out of her Greene kin. Already Joseph was raising a finger to drive home more points.
“Father, enough,” said Mary.
“I haven’t yet spoken a word, Daughter.”
“I know. And that’s enough. We aren’t going to discuss politics with you.”
“You better stand on the right side, Daughter or you might get mowed over. I didn’t raise any Tories.”
“I’m no Tory!” Sally looked ready to race down the stairs and take on both Greenes.
“Enough! Cob is not here and we’re not interested in barking with you over the politics of the day. Do you want to be civil and stay for supper?”
“No, we need to be on our way. But you better mind your sides, Sister.” The two men rode off and Mary let out her breath.
Sally stomped her booted foot on the porch. “Why can’t men listen to reason?”
“You’re hanging around the few educated men in this region, Sally. I understand that James and his sons believe in economic development for Watauga as much as for the tidewater places. But lots a folks around here see that as interference. They don’t trust it. Even Cob said, the Whig party is through.”
“Yes, but James believes…”
“With what James believes he had better scoot himself over the other side of the mountain because it’s not what everyone else believes. And I wouldn’t trust my brothers if it comes down to fighting like they are doing in Missouri.”
“Then why must we go out there?” Sally looked like a frightened deer.
“West doesn’t mean Missouri. West means beyond.”
“I miss Leroy. I hope he’s home soon.”
“I’m sorry, Sally, I don’t mean to get you worked up into a fret. Cob received a letter from Leroy. It seemed promising. Good land, good water. Cob wants to know more about economic prospects. Was his letter to you hopeful?”
“I suppose. It sounds lonely and vast out west.”
“Well, it beats being among people and feeling like you live with enemies.”