What’s Your Story?

If you have no story to tell, something, somewhere, isn’t quite right.

Not a day passes that we don’t experience something worth sharing, whether it’s something we observed, something we heard, something we participated in, something we remembered from the past, or even something we are planning for or dreaming of in the future. We all have a story to share.

If we feel we have nothing worthwhile to share is it because we are sitting idle, waiting for life to happen? Do we wait for other people for the company, or to have enough time, or enough money in order to acquire experiences we feel are worthy of sharing? Do we dare not to dream because we fear we’ll never be in a position of “doing”? If this, in any respect, is the case, our story, presently, is a tragedy.

Scarlette Begonia

One of the best storytellers of the day is Casey Neistat, filmmaker and vlogger. He recently traveled to Madrid for a speaking engagement. During his vlog shot from there, in a moment of reminiscence, he recounted the story of his first trip to Spain; he was young, still a teenager, with a young child to support, he worked as a dishwasher. Yet, he managed to set aside enough of a small sum of money that he could manage to pay for a trip to Europe with his older brother. Casey’s story was a reflection of his priorities; he still supported his child, he worked very hard, and saved diligently, and he traveled and experienced, that he’d have life experiences to grow from and stories to share. He had very little time and he had very little money, but his passion for life and experience inspired him to find a way. Because of his commitment to experience and to storytelling, he has followed his passion into a self-made career as an independent filmmaker and YouTube artist.

There is a way, but it won’t likely come find us while we sit idle and wait. We must pursue, we must go forth, if we want amazing adventures to tell tale of.

And yet, stories don’t have to be of an epic adventure to be worthy of telling. Some of the best stories are relatable because they are ordinary events, just well told and joyfully shared.

Scarlette Begonia

If we feel we have nothing worthwhile to share, is it because we don’t have the confidence to think others will find value in what we have to tell. This, too, would make our story a bit of a tragedy. Almost any story told with confidence and passion is worthwhile. There is humor, there are observations, there are plenty a worthy tale that can stem from the most mundane of events. The success of a story has only a little to do with content and much more to do with delivery and with engagement, which stems wholly from confidence.

Confidence, much like working very hard at a job and diligently saving money for a trip to Europe, takes commitment and practice and fortitude. And confidence will serve us well in every aspect of life. Confidence is a practice, like yoga or tai chi or ballet, like singing or playing the violin, once proficient, there is always another level of excellence to achieve. It is infinite. But confidence is critical, it is a life force.

Scarlette Begonia

And even with experiences to share and the confidence to tell them, there will be the few who will still not hear, will not listen, and this is never a reflection on the story or the storyteller. As much as storytelling is an art, so, too, is listening. The best storytellers are the best listeners; the best listeners are the best storytellers. As author Bryant H. McGill has been quoted, “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” Every story, every tale, every storyteller, will have a critic, too, from time to time. The quality of our story does not rely on the reaction of the listener, but the joy it brings us to tell and to those who truly hear. Do not be discouraged by those unwilling to hear, it is their loss, completely.

I often share stories of my simple, little life. In some cases, when I have an attentive audience, I feel I can tell the greates tale. Other times, when my audience isn’t connected or focused or willing, I struggle to even form intelligible sentences. I was, the other day, at the salon for my brow and bikini wax and as the hot wax was slathered on and the cool wax ripped off, I shared my tales of the weeks since my last visit. Here, I always find the perfect audience. May I suggest, if you struggle to find a willing audience with whom to share your stories, I have found the very best listeners, of all time, to be aestheticians. I have never had an aesthetician who wasn’t a great listener, who didn’t respond in all the right ways to all the stories I have to share. Your aesthetician, if you’re into bikini waxes, knows you in a way even your doctor doesn’t. There is a level of familiarity and intimacy with your aesthetician that can hardly be duplicated with anyone. I can get smooth and pretty and practice my craft of storytelling! Just thought I’d share.

Scarlette Begonia

Storytelling is a very large part of life; books, songs, movies, dance, photography, television shows, art, and poetry, are all just stories arranged into various mediums. Stories fill our every day, and, true, while many make a profession of telling a story, in one form or another, the rest of us are no less capable. We need only experiences to share and the confidence to express ourselves, and, we too, can tell a story!

So, what is your story?

Scarlett’s Letter July 3, 2013

Mission Fishin’ – also known as a “grocery run”. Our hopes? To fill the freezer with our limit of pike. Tales of numerous, big, ferocious fish charging the lure and fighting like a monster had me just a little worried. I’m still new at this whole fishing thing, I still have a hard time “hitting” the fish when it first nibbles on my line when they are itty-bitty fish. But I was sure I’d get the hang of it. Eventually. And eventually it will have to be.

We loaded the truck with the cooler full of sandwiches, one each, from Hilltop Truck Stop, a couple of gas cans, and the aired up spare tire for the boat trailer. We loaded the boat with a few different rods and reels and a couple of small containers of various lures. We stopped in town and picked up a couple more lures that looked large enough and heavy enough to snag a small whale. Then our journey began.

We made our way out around “Murphy Dome”, a mountain always seen from a distance on the Elliott Highway, near “home”. The pavement turned to a well-maintained dirt road, which eventually gave way to a potted, rutted, fifteen mile hell march. I’ve lived on dirt roads this potted and rutted, but only a few miles, not fifteen. Fifteen miles of potholes and ruts towing an air boat is not the most fun you can have in an afternoon, but being on the Chatanika River reeling in mountains of frisky pike would make it all worthwhile. To be certain.

We made it to the river and backed the airboat in. There were a few other trucks parked in the area with empty trailers, so, presumably, others were out fishing, somewhere along the river. One family was pulling their airboat out as we launched. The wife, I assume, was in shorts and flip-flops, as were the two little girls. I was in head to toe fabric after performing a “sheep dip” in DEET and still, the mosquitos were snacking on me. I guess I am just that sweet.

We loaded the cooler and the gas into the boat and made our way out onto the river. We’d been worried about the looming dark clouds, checking the weather those brief moments we had reception for an update. Funny, when I’m home, I’m super particular about what I wear and what I pack before I head outdoors. Years and years of training as a scout leader and many, many treks into the backcountry, plus certification in cold weather survival and wilderness first aid told me that, today, in jeans, a tank top and a cotton flannel shirt, no socks and Vans, I was a prescription for disaster if we ran into any kind of weather or if we were to break down on the river far from the truck. To my credit, I did have a hoodie (though cotton) in my daypack. This is Alaska. What was I thinking? All I could think about was the purple, packable, parka I saw at Sportsman’s Warehouse where we’d just bought those bodacious lures. Shoulda bought it. I always regret retail restraint when I do actually exercise it. But, I was better outfitted than anyone else I saw on the river, and purple packable parka would’ve made me look like a wimp. Or like I was from California, or something. As I like to say, “whatever.” Living dangerously, I guess.

I don’t fear hypothermia. Well, I do, but I have an understanding of it. If I had to choose the way to die, it is pretty high on the list. I guess. Other than simply going to sleep and not waking up. As a matter of fact, my children and I have a loose pact, if I become a burden in my old age, demented, tumor filled, prescription dependent, it’s time to go “snow camping”, and I will just conveniently leave all my super expensive cold weather gear behind (I’m senile, remember?). I will have my own tent, and in the cold of night, I will slip into hypothermia and pass. Once the initial (few hours of) discomfort pass, you slip into a delirious state where you actually feel warm. Then you die.

It was pretty cold on the river as we skimmed along atop the water. The cool thing about an airboat, especially a smaller one, it can navigate through passages only three inches deep. So we did, and we head upstream for turn after turn after turn. After about fifty turns, though, with as many closely proximate turns, I was pretty sure we could still see the truck through the trees if we looked closely enough. So, when it did start to sprinkle I wasn’t too, too worried. We hadn’t gone all that far. Luckily the sprinkles subsided and the skies lightened and we had no more rain for the day. Things were looking up.

We stopped and tried a good-looking fishing hole. We cast and cast and cast. Nothing. Curious. There should’ve been something. Where were all those voracious fish we’d heard about? We got back in the boat and headed on.

As we headed on, something began to pelt my face, at first I thought it was rain, but the sky, though overcast, was light and whatever was hitting my face wasn’t particularly wet. Gnats. Billions of gnats. At thirty-five miles an hour, a billion gnats hitting your face is an interesting sensation. Not painful, really, but not comfortable. Like micro-dermabrasion. I had gnat corpses stuck to my sunglasses, and thank goodness I had those damn sunglasses on, because I can’t imagine peeling gnat carcasses off my eyeballs. I also had a layer of gnats, dead and alive, plastered into my hair.

We tried fishing some more here and there, and nothing. No fish. Anywhere. We moseyed on. We ventured up Goldstream, according to plan, the locale of legendary pike. On and on we pressed up the more brackish water. It was almost thick, it seemed, in places. Pike, I guess, like this. But then again, maybe not, because they weren’t here. We came upon a cabin with three guys out front. They’d paid to be dropped by a plane for a few days of fishing. In twenty-four hours, almost continuous, between the three of them, twelve fish. And not very impressive ones, at that, “hammer handles”. We headed back out of Goldstream and decided to try upstream from where we launched. Still. Nothing.

But, for the discouraging fishing, it was still an awesome day. On our drive in, we saw a great horned owl glide over the road and into the canopy. On our way downstream we startled a moose. We saw a couple of beaver along the way, one here, one there. We saw lots of ducks and other birds, a few big birds of prey. A second moose. We saw a bald eagle. Twice. If you’ve never seen a bald eagle floating along overhead, in the wild, you haven’t lived. I think the most amazing thing I saw, except for the bald eagle, was the glass-like water, especially in the overcast and broken clouds. We’d come around the corner and the reflection in the sky was so bright and so vivid my brain would go, “whoa, wait”. It was like finding yourself upside down. The water was so clear and so reflective it looked almost like you could walk on it.

Empty handed, cooler full of empty beer bottles and empty lunch sacks, but no fish, we made our way back to the boat launch, and back up the bumpy road towards home. For me though, it was still a magical day. A bad day fishing here is better than a great day in a lot of other places. Treasure every day for what you find special.

 

Scarlett’s Letter July 2, 2013

So much for slowing down, I went to work today. Well, “we” went to work today, technically, I didn’t, I’m just along for the ride, and, in the process, meeting some new folks and maybe even having some new experiences. Like slowing down on a “work day”.

Today’s workday consisted of welding a new something (slick plate) or other on a big gold mining piece of equipage (trammel) in the middle of nowhere after unwelding the old something or other off of the big gold mining piece of equipage in the middle of nowhere. So, yes, I am more in the middle of nowhere than I usually am, except this middle of the nowhere actually has Internet. Not fast, but almost capable. I don’t think I’m anywhere that has a name, other than “Georgie’s gold mine” somewhere off the Steese highway some miles outside of Fairbanks, Alaska, but not yet to Central, in a direction I really didn’t pay attention to. I’ve heard a lot about Georgie’s gold mine over the past few years and am happy to have an opportunity to visit.

Now, as far as this workday goes, obviously, there was a commute involved. We had to drive a couple of hours to get here and I think we saw, maybe, four other cars the entire time. Now, out here, “commuting”, like at home, often involves certain “errands” along the way, to “buy groceries”, I suppose. Okay, we stopped to fish twice on the way to work.

Apparently, whatever I did yesterday, fishing-wise, worked, and today did not. I did not wear Vera Wang’s “Princess”, I just wore DEET, lots and lots of DEET. I’m not in any designer clothing, I’m actually in Levi’s 501’s and a (really cute, form fitting Target) plaid flannel shirt. Yes, I do have sequins on, it is requisite, but my sequins bedazzled, scooped neck t-shirt has not seen the light of day for the mosquitos. But, for whatever reason, the fish disapproved. Actually, I think there just weren’t any fish. At all.

The fishing holes we found were “roadside”, like yesterday’s, though yesterday’s had a well worn path between the road and the water. Today, no well worn path. That there was even a river down there was hard to determine. But, my man knows Alaska fishing holes like most men know sports statistics. We would park the car, and make our way down nearly vertical embankments for some undeterminable distance through vegetation so thick I lost sight of my man less than ten feet in front of me a couple of times. We basically just moved down the hillside, George of the Jungle style, from tree to tree to tree, using the small birch and black spruce trees as both a handhold and a foothold so as not to tumble down the hill (though I think if you were to tumble, you’d only roll downhill about six inches before being lodged against another tree, but you’d be buried in about four feet of brush, which, yes, we waded through. All of this to reach a lovely, meandering river, home to zero fish. “The fish are late this year,” I’ve been told. How rude. I hope they are able to get on standby for another flight and arrive soon, like while I’m here and hold a valid 14-day out-of-state fishing license.

When we arrived at Georgie’s gold mine, I was introduced and given a tour, including an overview of how the mining operation works. Introductions in Alaska are always pleasant and sincere, most folks are genuinely nice and very welcoming hosts and hostesses. Learning a little about their placer mining operation was very interesting, especially having lived in California’s gold country for several years, at one point a few miles from where gold was first discovered in 1849 and, also, having once owned a forty-acre parcel of remote forest property with its own hard rock gold mine. This type of large-scale placer mining is far different than what I’ve seen in the Sierra foothills of Northern California, but I haven’t visited any working, placer mine operations, only the single claim holder with a personal and portable operation.

While the actual work was being done, I was entertained by being taken to a nearby creek to pan for gold. I have the patience of a gnat, and adolescent gnat, when it comes to certain things; golf, fishing and gold panning. I have learned to embrace fishing, only because I have finally been taught the finer, more intellectual points and have discovered it requires quite a bit of knowledge and skill –my competitive spirit awakens. Gold panning, today, entertained me for about two swirls, until someone actually took the time to explain the nuances. I was then entertained for about twelve minutes, until Georgie himself, took a break from driving some big, yellow Tonka tractor thing back and forth and showed me five flecks of gold in his pan after only about fourteen seconds and three swirls. In kicked my competitive spirit and I am not the proud owner of an empty prescription bottle FULL of …. water. And at the bottom, several very small flecks of gold, small enough you have to squint to see them, but not so small you need a microscope. Almost, though. I will continue with my current plan for an early retirement, which, truthfully, is about “Plan H”, with Plans A through G having failed. Plan L may still pan out, no pun intended (Plan L being Lottery).

After the old slick plate was removed and the new one welded in its place in the trammel, the crew all returned to the cabin for a fantastic dinner. Another couple was visiting and we filled the table in the small cabin. Which wasn’t really all that small considering the story about it being trucked in from another town about eighty miles away.

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After dinner we retired to the sitting area and visited at length. I love meeting new folks, I love learning about new folks, I love their stories and I love finding something in common to share, a location and hobby or some experience. George, Georgie’s dad, and his wife grew up on the east coast, Ingrid in New Jersey and in Midtown Manhattan, one of my favorite stomping grounds. This we chatted about while panning. After dinner, during our conversation, Ingrid revealed, that much to her family’s shame and embarrassment, she was a geocacher. So, too, am I, so this fueled more lively conversation. It is after opportunities for experiences and meetings such as these that we come to appreciate the value, the richness of an ordinary day, ordinary events and ordinary people. Failing to realize and appreciate this value, this richness, prohibits us from taking our lives from ordinary to extraordinary. Today was extraordinary! Meetings that began cordial and with a handshake and a smile ended with big hugs around the room and the hope to return for another visit soon.

Fishing hole with no fish
Fishing hole with no fish
Trommel
Trommel
Gold panning
Gold panning
Creek we panned in
Creek we panned in
The cabin that came in by truck some eighty miles
The cabin that came in by truck some eighty miles