What’s the connection between a tiny folding knife, a Japanese passport, and a group of people huddled around a cedar whale sculpture? A good story.
The Story Migration Project kicked off quietly last spring. The “whale box” as it had come to be known was opened, and its unusual passenger, the whale, was passed around. At first everyone sat around waiting for someone else to start. My living room was dreadfully quiet. Despite hopeful looks, no one said anything, yet a sense of hopeful anticipation was in the air.
Although I’d intended to tell my story about a real whale, without reading from the paper I’d written it on, I soon found myself glancing at it. And momentarily, the story came out, a little stiff and woody, like the sculpture itself.
There was a pause after I read. No one was sure if they should clap or smile or ask a question, but the reading had the desired effect. It got the next person talking. A tale about someone’s dad emerged, then a story of a long-lost knife that mysteriously appeared while on a trip to Japan. As each story was laid out, a casual comfort emerged. The silence changed from one of awkwardness to one of thoughtfulness. Although some of the storytellers had brought props, strangely, one person’s object and tale led to a connection with someone else’s.
Two hours had passed more quickly than seemed possible and the time had come to wrap things up. There was a quiet joy in the stories we’d shared and a touch of sadness when the whale was placed back in its box, but we all knew the good times the whale would experience as it headed on to the next story party.