Where stories come from
"You are a good teacher," he said. She said. And the teenagers say. They do not mean that I teach Mathematics or English well. So many others do that better than me. They say that because I tell stories.
I did not use the name for this website to indicate that I educate
other people. Neither to sound pedantically superior. I sit on the bench
in this picture and think of their words, about being good at what I
do. They do me the honour of calling me “Teacher Audrey”
– a title graciously given to a Story Teller. So, I will step
out of a classroom and tell these stories.
Many great stories come from Africa. When I teach Mathematics I tell simple stories about the animals in the National Parks in Africa. A story about a giraffe eaten by a cheetah because he did not pay attention in giraffe kindergarten class is much better than the words: “Pay attention, please.” I have to add that the baby giraffe dies a long painful death. With quite a lot of blood on the red African soil under the sizzling sun. Grade 9’s feel sorry for the little dead giraffe – I think you get the picture. Algebra runs fast after this story. Students are not baboons.
I have traveled often and wide. This is a privilege and I bring the stories back from every trip. So that every child or adult who wants to know more about the world out there, can go to Namibia with me to meet this child. I do not even know her name, her laughter was just bright. She sang with shy eyes, loud and clear in a classroom in Africa. She begged me to take her picture, no one ever have before. I sent her this picture of herself. This smart beautiful little lady. And I will make up her story. It will have a good ending. Her life story will too. There was just something magical about her.
She made me cry – when she sang. This is to you, dear precious child. Your life matters. I will call her that. Precious.
I tell stories about the books I read. I read all the time and in a few languages. Book Reviews.
I have to parallel read Spanish and German. So many stories come from other greatest story tellers on earth. One of them is Juan Ramón Jiménez. He wrote Platero and I. It is a very simple story about a man walking and talking with his best friend, Platero, his donkey. These stories remind me that stories should be simple to be powerful.
Platero is a small donkey, a soft, hairy Donkey: so soft to the touch that he might be said to be made of cotton, with no bones. Only the jet mirrors of his eyes are hard like two black crystal scarabs . . . Read a few words from this book in English.
I believe in magic. My stories are sometimes not based in any reality. Nor should they be, goodness, we have had enough of reality.
I want to use the words of D.H. Lawrence in his Creed: “This is what I believe: That I am I. That my soul is a dark forest. That my known self will never be more than a little clearing in the forest. That gods, strange gods, come forth from the forest into the clearing of my known self . . .
Stories come from dark forests, where fairies and Santa Claus exist.
That exact spot.
I am a student. I want to learn all the time. I crave knowledge. When
I travel to China I want to know everything. The history, the culture,
the reason why people meet in this location at 6 on a Sunday and why
the lilies grow so tall. I see women dance. I hold hands with my teenage
students late at night while we walk-and-talk. Their love move me in
the stillness of dark streets. We talk about their country, the people
on earth, the giraffes of Africa and war-or-peace. More stories are
I want to use the words of another writer again. Humor me, he writes this all too well not to be quoted. Knowledge, love and compassion summaries by Bertrand Russell:
three passions have governed my life:
the longings for love, the search for knowledge,
and unbearable pity for the suffering of [humankind].
love brings ecstasy and relieves loneliness.
in the union of love I have seen
in a mystic miniature the prefiguring vision
of the heavens that saints and poets have imagined.
with equal passion I have sought knowledge.
I have wished to understand the hearts of [people].
I have wished to know why the stars shine.
love and knowledge led upwards to the heavens,
but always pity brought me back to earth;
cries of pain reverberated in my heart
of children in famine, of victims tortured
and of old people left helpless.
I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot,
and I too suffer.
this has been my life; I found it worth living.