Thomas Doty – Storyteller


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Walkin' and Talkin'

Be wary of a storyteller whose shoes lack a sprinkling of dust in the summer, or splatterings of mud in the winter. Perhaps he hasn't walked through the stories he tells.

Woody Guthrie talked to himself -- and the universe -- as he wandered along back roads, dreaming up words to new songs. "I'm walkin' and talkin'," he'd say. "Just walkin' and talkin'."

Jaime de Angulo, and his Pit River Indian friends, talked to the Tree People as they walked through their mythic landscapes. They whispered, "Tras ... tras ... tras" which means "feet shuffling through dry leaves." They learned these words from Coyote who understood the importance of howling the sound of pre-automotive travel as he trotted through Old Time stories. He still does!

Poets who composed verse in their heads, and chanted them while walking, knew precisely what they were doing. Their poems say it all. This long list includes Bashō, W.B. Yeats and his buddy John Synge. This was before "walk your talk" became a mantra some folks consider more of an intellectual concept than time-proven, hands-on advice on simply how to "Be."

Though scholars write about the pace of a story or poem, or measure verse in units of feet, the connection of words to walking is more ancient than academia, and goes deeper. This is especially true for storytellers and poets, or anyone who messes with words. If you love those words and you take them for a daily walk, you are destined to "follow your bliss" -- good advice, Joseph Campbell! -- and the words and the walking will just keep going, and you'll have a decent shot at living a happy life.

Just so you know, before I scribbled them down, I spoke these words into being -- out loud -- as I ambled along a dusty path, following a creek into the mountains, pacing around in the woods for a story.

And I smiled at what I found.