Thomas Doty – Storyteller

A Native View

Image.


The Pause Before the Story

(A storyteller crosses the stage. He stands near the back for a moment -- a silhouette against a dimly-lit, endless sky. He is dressed in dark trousers, blue work shirt, dark vest and dark cap. His shoes are dusty -- a traveler's shoes -- and he carries a short walking stick. There is a satchel slung over his shoulder. He walks forward, looking behind, to each side, looking ahead. He drops the satchel on the floor beside the chair, and still holding his stick, walks to the lip of the stage and speaks directly to the audience.)

I have been traveling. The Old Ones would say that I have been wandering, restless to hear the poetry of the world's great story. They would say that I have been going tras ... tras ... tras ... my feet shuffling through dry leaves ... sauntering about the countryside, collecting pieces of that story. And it is one of the great joys of my life to pause in my journey -- take a little breather -- and share some of the words I've heard, some of my adventures, some parts of this story I'm making. I always enjoy sharing a story with folks like you ... lovers of tales.

Of course, the only story I can share is my own story. But it's strange. I start into that story, and the rest of the universe steps in. Every speck of truth jostles for a place in the story. Coyote howls to be heard, Bear lumbers into the plot in his slow and gentle way, and Raven and his cousin Crow scream to have their say on stage. And there's the landscape itself, breathing with Rock People, Tree People, River People -- and all the monsters and their dark adventures! -- all crowding themselves into the narrative. And whispers of history and legend, myth and folktale, poem and song.... They echo around every twist of the trail. And, of course, there's the loudest people of all, impossible to ignore, and they've squeezed themselves into every nook and cranny. Everywhere I look, there they are: the Human People.

(The storyteller pauses and looks around him as if he is expecting someone else to show up.)

Let me tell tell you more about Mister Coyote, my tag-along, semi-mythological sauntering pal. He's a piece of work in progress. He'd be more trouble than he's worth if it weren't for his spontaneous tidbits of native wisdom. Though he's a bit puffed-up, he's full of prankish surprises and he keeps my journey interesting. But he's more than that. He's my direct connection to the Old Ones and their ways. What more could a storyteller ask for? Besides, there's nothing I can do. He refuses to go away.

Don't let anyone tell you that creating a story is a passion without a price. Look what I have to put up with! What started as a stroll seems to be rolling into a lifelong journey of distractions and discoveries ... a never-ending search for something, an endless quest ... for what? ... a long, long walk.... And, well, here I am, resting for a spell with you.

There is no beginning, middle or end to my story. I like to believe that as an artist and as a native I have grown beyond the notions of straight lines and linear thinking. My story has circles and cycles and is alive with the breathing of all the world's critters, be they rocks or animals, people or trees, or the sun and moon themselves, or someone beyond the shadows who sings in the darkness. I tell my story as I live it, and please forgive me, but it is at best untidy. It meanders like the rivers I travel along. It hugs the curve of the hill like a good path. And it can be as unexpected as a mountain storm or a dream out of nowhere, or something over the next ridge I had never imagined could be there. It can be as sudden and as wonderful as love or a new friend or a poem that grows on its own inside my head.

Though some Old Time stories saunter in and out of my own story, I tell those as I have lived and experienced them as though they were my own. But I try to keep the integrity of their Old Time wisdoms intact, even now, centuries later. We living storytellers owe our art to the oral traditions of those who came before us, and they should never be forgotten. They were true artists. I am simply one more in a long line of tellers -- thousands-of-years-worth -- who have wandered the world and shared stories. Storytelling has a long history, but it is also a living art, and you and I are part of it. So welcome, story lovers, to something ancient and something modern, then and now. Welcome.

I have worn a lot of hats in my time, but the one called storyteller seems to fit best, though none of them have fit just right. I have been called a poet and sometimes I assault that art and use it to serve my narrative. Once in a while I've been known to sing a song in a story, though I've never been called a singer, and for good reason. But I'm not here as poet or singer, even historian. I'm here as a worder, a fellow lover of tales, a wandering, wondering storyteller, and I'm here to share what I have seen and what I have heard. I'm here to have my say.

So I'll try my best to share some bits of my story, but there's no telling who else might show up, or what, or which tidbits of truth might leak out of the universe and splash on our heads or flow into our hearts. Not any way of knowing for sure....