Story Recipes – A Cup of Imagination. A Dash of Dream.
Like the ingredients in a recipe, the things we intentionally or subconsciously think about and practice, influence the flavor, texture, aroma and outcome of our story.
As an imaginative introverted child, I would re-create and live out the stories of people I admired, as though their stories were my story. For example, I grew up watching Mother Theresa on the news and would play at the park pretending that the cinderblock labyrinth in the center of the park was the alleys and makeshift shelters of Calcutta. I would bring rags and food and pretend to care for the sick and the poor. At age eight I watched Alex Haley’s “Roots” and I’d wake up every morning and look in the mirror and talk to myself as though I were a slave reminding herself that she was from an honorable family, a girl who was kept from her birthright and that she could endure the tortures and degradations of plantation life because she was noble and dignified inside where it really matters; that her worth transcended her miserable and humiliating circumstances. I practiced feeling what I imagined she felt and I practiced looking in the mirror and showing no pain and no fear–just stoic dignity. I did this for years each morning and in the process, these people’s stories became my experiences, through my imagination. As my life has unfolded, I have faced many of my own challenges and drawn upon the stories of others in response to my own adverse trials. So when people say to me, as they often do, “You remind me of Pocahontas.” or “You are so like Elizabeth Bennett.” or “You have Esmeralda’s gypsy soul.” I smile and feel satisfied that their stories have found new life in me. I have found that the most inspiring stories are not born of ease or luxury, but rather the stories that thrill us most are those where tragedy and hardship meet with determination and faith. In this way, at the moment I face any challenge, my first reaction has become to feel a hint of the glory waiting on the other side of the difficulty; indeed I hunger as I follow the scent of the inevitable greatness that awaits as I invite myself to be the hero of my unfolding story.
Sometimes we feel that our story consists of little more than the things that simply happen to us. My experience has been that, in addition to the multitude of serendipitous things that occur in life, we also create our story by what we choose to think, worry, obsess, dream, and question. Truly “As a man [or woman] thinketh, so is he [she].” When I was four years old, my family sold their half of a horse riding stable in Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park to their partner. We moved to the city and I didn’t have very many opportunities to ride horses anymore. I remember feeling like an important part of my young identity had been stripped away. When other little girls were playing dolls, I would play “Alpine Stables.” I would use an old desk as the office. It had the original stationary, stamps, envelopes, and brochures from the stables. I would put on my jeans, my dad’s oversized boots, and my brothers Class-A guide pin and pretend I was living and working at the stables. For years, although I stopped roleplaying, I continued to imagine my way back there. I took every opportunity to become a proficient rider and I dreamed and schemed on how to get back to my Rocky Mountain home. Six years ago, immediately following a devastating yet liberating divorce, I made my way 700 miles north, back to Canada. I reconnected with the family my parents had partnered with in the venture and mended old hard feelings and eventually was offered a job as a horseback trail guide. Forty-seven years old and I’ve come full circle. The place I spent my first four years of life is the very same place I have spent my last four years. The realities we imagine become the realities we actualize. The ingredients that build the story are a mix of thoughts, dreams, wishes and effort. The hero not only navigates the tale but creates it, stirring in one thought, one image, one attitude at a time.
Sandi Bartlett Atwood is a single mother of four boys. She taught secondary school for many years before going back to university where she obtained her master’s degree in American Studies/Folklore where she compared traditional and academic creation narratives. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Environment and Society considering local/indigenous ecological knowledge. She lives in Canada. She cacontactedraced at firstname.lastname@example.org