Willing to Talk, Willing to Listen

The point here is not to amaze, astound or confound. It’s not to philosophize, politicize or demonize. This isn’t a self-help how-to guide. We’re not gurus or yogis, therapists or shamans. Preachers or politicians. So who are we and what is the point?

We are two people who were born and raised in Alpena, Michigan. We are proud to say that we graduated from the Thunder Bay River, Lake Huron and all of its waterways. We are siblings. We are parents, friends. We are writers. We departed and returned. We are happy to be students of the woods and the water that have so profoundly defined us.

The point? The point is both complicated and simple: the two of us (as we’re sure many others do) share a love of language. We believe in its force to help connect the dots to big ideas, to those around us and to our selves. Words help us translate our perceptions and draw a map of our movements to find meaning in things big and small. Language allows us to share experience and insight. It is a way of examining and answering questions.

People are using language now more than ever. For good, ill or otherwise, there is plenty of rattle these days: sound bytes, techno-communication, chit-chat on the fly. Our moments are constantly inundated with images and slogans, spin and tweets . . . re-tweets. With all the language coming at us so rapidly along unprecedented avenues, how do we pare down, wade through? How do we filter the dross and get to what’s real? What’s valuable?

Experience tells us that it’s the deep conversations and discussions we have that are memorable, stick with and affect us. When we actually take the time to talk and to listen to someone else for more than five minutes, we have the opportunity for those conversations to materialize. We build relationships upon that and, through language, come to know a little bit more about what’s important to us and those around us. When we read something that makes our head nod or spin or wonder, we are discovering again what’s real. It is when language strikes a chord in us that pushes us on, keeps us going. These are the things we value.

The word history entered our language in the early 14th century carrying the meaning “relation of incidents, story.” Communities are built on stories and those stories create our history. Relating them, year after year, solidifies our sense of place. They tell us who we were and who we have become while whispering of potential futures. The shared language of story binds us, from our closest circle to our experiences as humans in the world.

Creation stories vary in details but are far more similar across cultures than they are dissimilar. We all have family stories that get retold again and again; they invoke precise moments with power and clarity. Story comforts. Story challenges. This is our human element, and it is why we are so drawn to language; to tell, to inspire, to question, to remember, to live. We don’t have to be published authors. We just have to be open, willing.

If someone had told us long ago that together we’d one day have a column in our hometown newspaper, we probably would have quietly accepted the compliment, joking, perhaps, about which one of us would make it back to Alpena first. But being here now back home-as adults with families of our own, walking the same streets, attending some of the same events, seeing others like us “all grown up,” gives us certain perspective we weren’t sure we’d have access to all those years ago. We can’t be sure how valuable that perspective is, but are thrilled by the prospect of digging into stories with you and working hard to continue to build community through words. We are more than willing to listen, willing to talk.