Story, laughter, song

11 05 2013

Today’s post honors The Story. And a newly found twist. The Song.

My adult life work has been all about story—finding and writing it for the daily news, crafting ideas for a magazine, supporting college faculty with features, writing ad copy.

From the pen I gravitated toward photojournalism and photographic images to tell stories. Environmental portraiture, or people in their surroundings, became my forté for a time.

My Hawaiian landscapes in oil have no people in them. They represent scenes of which viewers may create their own stories. I paint pictures of places where you might have been and want to remember, and of places where you might rather be.

Three unrelated gifts support The Story, and I pass them on hoping they will inspire you as much as they have inspired me.

Tomorrow is Mark W. Travis‘s 70th birthday, and he is observing his big year with a trip around the world to continue his fine work as a film director and teacher of film directors and playwrights. Happy birthday, Mark! Hope to see you in the Islands.

Twice I took Mark’s Solo Autobiography workshop. I think he calls it Write Your Life now. Aside from drilling the class in clever techniques, Mark has the uncanny skill of listening to my lines and pinpointing the exact vulnerable spot in my heart that needs exploring. The real story. He stabs it right away, then twists deeper to that place where I don’t want to go. Unhhh. But that becomes the start of writing authentically. And it’s very healing.

I stopped going to his classes—too much crying—and he acknowledged, that’s okay, as long as you keep writing. I follow him on Facebook and read his blog, which is where I came across the second gift:

A story about an African tribe. It’s here:

Since I’ve tuned in to my own music, writing down the melodies in my mind, this intrigues me. It suggests Song before Story. I hope you will click on the link to read the article. When Mark Travis swings by here in August, he will teach “Write Your Life/On Your Feet” for the first time, coaching the performance and delivery of autobiographical material. I’m on the waiting list.

Thirdly, I must point you to Playing Your Hand Right – Showing America How to Live, the funniest and sexiest writing I’ve ever read. Fact or fiction, seriously real or lovingly poking fun, it doesn’t matter, it’s hilarious! Oh, the stories! Definitely XX-rated. Damn educational if you’ve been sheltered and just read newspapers. Haha! Taylor Oceans is the author who “liked” and “followed” my blog (and everyone else’s) to attract readership to his. He says he needs to amass a following to prove to a publisher his work is successful, so he can make some honest money and buy his dream sailboat. At least that’s his story, and I say he’s there. Apologies if you find his writing offensive. It makes me laugh.

My take-away is that we always have Story. The best ones make you Laugh. But how about we listen more closely and tune in to our Song.

Copyright 2013 Rebekah Luke

Stories as legacy

27 03 2010

Stories can be legacies. I was reminded of this when my cousin Galien sent me the Hawaii island press photos and story of Kalahikiola church with a note, “It shows you how Kohala takes care of its own, rarely waiting for the government or others to do their needs.”

The photos show the congregation seated in pews of a renovated interior. The news article reports that on February 27, 2010, while most of Hawaii waited for a potentially damaging tsunami from an earthquake in Chile, the people of North Kohala were in church to dedicate their newly rebuilt Kalahikiola church building, a casualty of an earlier natural disaster: The earthquake on October 15, 2006, off the coast of the Big Island of Hawaii caused the stone walls of the church, located at Kapaau, to crumble.  A dramatic photo showed the damage to the world.

Among the relatives of my mother’s side of the family, what we noticed in the 2006 photo was that the bell tower was intact. (Click on “dramatic photo” in the above paragraph.) Growing up, we were told the story of how our grandfather — who managed the grounds of Dr. Benjamin D. Bond’s estate that included the church — repaired the bell tower in the early 1900s, replacing rotted timbers one by one.

Yet, actually, someone read and quoted the anecdote in Father Bond of Kohala: A Chronicle of Pioneer Life in Hawai‘i by Ethel M. Damon (Honolulu: The Friend, 1927) about “Ah Nee, the faithful Chinese workman,” the only carpenter who dared to undertake the repair. (He was called Ah Nee, which means Two for the second son, but his correct name was Chong How Kong.) And that quote is re-cited in our cousin J. H. Kim On Chong-Gossard’s The Chong Family History (Kaaawa: Chong Hee Books, 1992).

Our grandfather died in 1930, but when we saw the 2006 photo of the church with the untouched bell tower, we patted him on the back anyway. We cherish this connection to Kohala. It’s the story we pass down, even though there are so many more stories, given that my mother and her 14 siblings were born and began their lives there. But that’s the story we know about our grandfather.

Accuracy is part of my training and experience. My 6th grade teacher taught how to use a dictionary, how to outline, and drilled us on “speed and accuracy.” When writing the daily news, it’s customary to check facts with more than one source; two to concur, but three are better. In the Sunset test kitchen we made a recipe a minimum of three times before publication.

Recently I became involved for five years in designing and managing the publication of bi-lingual children’s story books in Hawaiian and English for a non-profit educational organization in our area. The stories were to ring true to the Hawaiian culture, places, customs, heritage, etc.

The storybook project was by the indigenous community and involved many partners, writers, reviewers, elders, editors, photographers, designers, and translators. While allowing an author’s voice, I lobbied my darndest to avoid what I felt were inaccuracies, but sometimes I wasn’t successful.  In the end I relaxed and said okay to some things that I’d now regard as modern myth.

This past week the publisher, Na Kamalei – K.E.E.P., released its Hawaiian-culture-based early childhood education curriculum for families. It’s wonderful, and it integrates 20 of the story books into the lesson plans. It is for use by family and child interaction learning programs.

I still feel accuracy is important, so as not to perpetuate something that’s not so, thereby creating a myth.

What stories do you remember? What stories will you write or tell? What legacy will you leave?

Copyright 2010 Rebekah Luke

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