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Creative Arts Day Speaker

Jan Seale   

We are, all of us, part of a storytelling and story-receiving species. To enhance our lives, whether we are writers or readers of writing, we can all be open to discovery. Julia Cameron, a writing teacher observed, “The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.”  Delight is the payback for close observation.

Animal behaviorists tell us that in a given monkey family, twenty percent of them are sent to the top of the canopy in the forest to act as lookouts for food and for the safety of the group, to call down the news. I always want to be one of those designated story-telling monkeys.

What can we find new in our lives each day and thus celebrate? I make a game of finding something different in my backyard or in a park near my house where I walk. The other day I got close enough to see the throat contours change on a mockingbird as it sang. What a marvel!

Sometimes my dreams leave me in awe of that whole mysterious process. The poet William Blake said, “Everything that lives is holy./Life delights in Life.” Do you delight in life?

There is a story in everything and everybody. Do we give the gift of listening as well as of telling? Do we understand that one’s story may be more important than any schedule or budget or report? Occasionally, when I’m tempted to want to “pass” on another’s story, I try to remember a line from The Desiderata: “Listen to the boring; they have their story too.” Listening to a story you’ve heard over and over, and one that doesn’t immediately draw you in, may be a sacrament, a gift to the person who needs so badly to repeat it. The paradox is that if we listen closely enough, and with our hearts, we find that even in the most ordinary, familiar story, there will be something for us as well.

We need to keep our hearts and minds open to the possibility of deeper meanings. If I already know everything I’m going to say in a poem, I probably won’t write it. I want to experience what the writing will tell me.

Remaining human in a time-share world allows our interpretation of the events in our lives, our recall, to change if need be, but always to ripen, to enlarge, to be subject to the way we are growing as human beings.

                                                                                    --Jan Seale

                                                                                    2012-13 Texas Poet Laureate