Listening to the storytellers

Feb 27, 2021 | 2 comments

One of the many advantages of being a journalist is that you can take your workplace anywhere. You do not need a forge or kiln, a frame stretched with canvas, or cans of spray paint and a vacant wall. All you need is a laptop to capture what you are writing and a camera. Observe what you see and record it — that is your job.

Practically, however, it is a little more challenging than that; it requires having something to say, and for that you must listen carefully to the storytellers who fine-tune the chronicle of history by providing nuance, tone, and texture. They are the concertmasters who string together airs learned as recently as yesterday, with stories passed down since long before the drone of television and the internet. They are the safe-keepers of tales recounting stiff-necked people warmed by a fire they did not build, and of unimaginable thirst quenched from a sought-after well dug long before their arrival.

The job also requires being out and about, engaging in everyday events and paying close attention to the daily lessons we can learn from those who call Ecuador their home.

I’ll bet there are a few among us who have witnessed someone shoving a camera into sweet faces, blinking a shot or two, and then parading away as if they had just captured a band of plumed relics, complete with matching hats and different shoes. But most of us are as far away from that practice as the moon is from the stars. Our job is to pay attention to their examples of how best to live in this world.

I watched a dad the other day hoisting his kid towards the fruit that is laboring the cherry trees of San Sebastian Plaza. The trees are sagging under the weight of tiny morsels too delicious to be ignored. From my vantage point I could not tell who was the most delighted; the young boy swaying in his father’s arms in time to the pregnant branches, or the dad, waving his kid around like his most precious magic wand.

The low hanging fruit were picked days ago by whole families, and teenagers, shyly reaching to one more time grasp the fruit of childhood memories.

It seems that every weekend another exuberant wedding is being staged in the plaza.  I like to watch the pre-game event when the chosen few are lined up: off-pink flamingoes with as much fluff as can be imagined; a choreographed and color coordinated parade of awkward girls growing into their bodies and a luminescent bride comfortable in her future. The stories they record today will be retold by storytellers in the periods between tears and laughter for many years to come.

As for me, I yearn to listen to the storytellers who came before us — those in their twilight years – those who rest on the highest plateau. I want to feel their breath on my cheek, and to hear the stories they hand down to the young – for these are among the most precious jewels of knowledge.

It is an ideal time to be taking to heart the examples of those wiser than us and listening to how they endured the travails leading to contentment. It is an ideal time to learn from the storytellers, to embrace again and again what they teach through repetition and to listen to their sage advice.