Thursday, July 19, 2007

Discovering Time with One's Mentor

The world rotates with such speed on its axis that sometimes we must feel we must match that speed in our everyday lives. When we do not take the time to breathe and listen, we miss many wonderful opportunities. Yashinsky shared that learning storytelling came "by spending unhurried time with my elders" (p. 81).

Already I can witness my need to walk fast in the world, especially during the exercise of walking about the classroom. We were asked to walk slow--a hard thing for me to do--as well as to go double-time, walk as if on eggshells, etc. Every so often we would return to our "normal" speed and I still found that my pace was unnervingly fast. If I walk this fast, how often have I missed moments of learning?

One of Yashinsky's mentors, Joan Bodger, replied, "How did I become a storyteller? We ate and drank stories for dinner. They were our mass, our communion" (p. 91). Sometimes I must remind myself to pause from my busy world and eat and yet here storytelling is compared to a spiritual feast.

I may consider myself in the fast-food lane of storytelling. I zoom to the library, find 30+ books to take home, read or flip through the books, and then return them. Though I attempt to say "hi" to the librarians, most of my experience has been alone.

Yashinsky mentioned many times the importance of mentors. I have always had many supporters such as guild members or neighbors. Yet, I would be lucky to name on one hand the mentors to whom I listen to for hours on end.

My newest mentor is Don Doyle from Mesa, Arizona. When developing the "Hephaestus: Fire Within" story, he even offered to fly to Utah at his own expense to see the premiere. He has made it clear that coaching and mentoring are two different skills. Mentoring is meant to last a lifetime and even beyond the grave.

When I have been with Don--whether in-person or by telephone--I can sense my mind expand to more possibilities yet Don always allows me to choose my path. My respect for Don was reflected in what Yashinsky said, "Teachers can sometimes work in strange ways. They may never tell you anything directly about your work, or coach you, or give you explicit instruction. They may never offer a criticism or even a suggestion, but you are learning all the time. Almost everything I learned from my teachers came to me indirectly: I observed their art, thought hard about their dazzling skills and knowledge, and brought them many cups of tea; in other words, I was a devoted listener to those who knew far more about stories, storytelling and life than I did (p. 82).

I smiled when Alice Kane welcomed Yashinsky with the hymn "Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone, dare to have a purpose firm, and dare to make it known!" (p. 87).

Perhaps it is okay to be alone and sometimes it is better to be with one's mentor. Thus, I agree with Yashinsky when he said, "I hope that as you set out on your storytelling journey, you find your own teachers and elders" (p. 93).

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
(801) 870-5799

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