Nell Bumgarner, 1898
There are stories I wish to share with you
To convey the essence, and feel, and charm
Of long-ago memories that live within me.
To write is my desire, yet I am hindered;
I have neither command of words nor expression,
Nor power to say what I would.
I lack the ability to select and condense;
I prefer to write as the snatches drift by.
I cannot tell you what's in my heart – but I'll try.
Nell Yeager Bumgarner, From Lucasville Lore
From the first grunts of cavemen to the texts of Twitter, words remain singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. But, words often “fail us.” Who, like Nell Bumgarner, has not felt great inadequacy to express themselves? Driven to communicate a memory or an idea, people often feel the lack the linguistic sophistication to produce a memorable bit of speech or writing. Yet, Nell understood that the effort of sharing a heartfelt expression is the overriding exertion that produces meaningful stories.
When people become comfortable enough to express their stories, their “one of a kind” bits of remembrance add to a meaningful diversity of style and voice. The particular voice they employ carries their own experience and unique personality. It is the author's duty not only to remain true to his or her own voice (the inside world), but also to maintain a veracity of his or her words to the audience (the outside world).
“Trying” to communicate is usually achieved successfully when a person follows
a blend of conscious activity – reacting to stimuli through focused ideas – and unconscious activity – registering information and forming associations from sensory memory. Tapping into both the conscious and unconscious processes are treasure-hunting expeditions for speakers and writers. Fluency inevitably develops as people discover the freedom of setting out on this journey of discovery.
“What The Subconscious is to every other man, in its creative aspect becomes, for writers, The Muse.”
– Ray Bradbury
“The conscious and unconscious minds have integrated social messages about appropriateness, safety, and quality of craftsmanship. If the conscious mind is allowed too much control, especially in the early stages of a project, a writer's work suffers. Images are not specific, metaphors become cliched or superficial, emotional truths and hard realities are avoided, and the work fails to live up to its potential.”
(Kate Arms-Roberts. “Writing at the Speed of the Unconscious.” www.creativitypost.com. September 13, 2013)
The story is the vehicle that transports the reader across borders of time, space, and imagination. Humans may not understand logic; however, they are ideally programmed to understand stories. From the beginning of life, stories are a fundamental unit of knowledge. As a foundation of memory, they are essential to the way humans make sense of their lives. Who, as a child, begged adults over and over for a story? All of us.
Storytelling also involves great listening skills. Listening is very powerful creative force in itself. American psychiatrist Karl Menninger explains: “The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward, and we want to sit in their radius. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” A story stimulates the imagination while engaging the listener's sense-making faculties – in short, it bonds those who participate in the activity.
“‘History’ is mostly ‘story.’”
– Ken Burns, whose 19 films have garnered him a Guggenheim Fellowship, three Peabody Awards and four Emmy Awards
It has been reported that personal stories and gossip make up 65% of our conversations. It it any wonder that an effective communication of history involves such accounts? American filmmaker Ken Burns understands the power of the personal story. Burns – The Civil War, Baseball, The National Parks, The Vietnam War – explains: “The elements of storytelling are always the same. You’re just drawn to a good story, whether a small one or a big one.” The point, Burns says, is that every story has characters – it’s just a matter of letting them breathe and tell their stories.
The people of Lucasville, Ohio, know Nell Yeager Bumgarner was a jewel of a storyteller who shared her writing and her conversations with so many folks for so many years. She left a historical record of great importance by simply overcoming any perceived hindrances of communicating her wonderful stories. In her own words, Nell “tried” to tell others what was in her heart. And, it was what was in her heart that mattered … and still matters.
This Bicentennial year a wonderful tribute to Nell Bumgarner and others like her who worked tirelessly to preserve Lucasville history would be for each of us to “try” to share a story … a story that could be saved and reread again and again. No one lacks the ability or the command to do this. We may convince ourselves that we aren't capable of doing this, but we all have our stories, narratives that others long to hear.
I am making a call for your contributions. No story is too small or insignificant to write. I hope you decide to do this – simply write your story and share it with the Lucasville Area Historical Society or with myself. Here is the address of the Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/LucasvilleAreaHistoricalSociety/
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I try to share my stories with you in hopes of building community. I so hope you will share one (or more) of yours with the historical society.
“God made man because He loves stories.”
– Elie Wiesel, author and Nobel Peace Prize winner