During the long drive down to visit some friends in Colorado last week, I rediscovered The Vinyl Cafe on CBC radio. I'd heard of the great Stuart McLean and of his famous storytelling, but hadn't really spent much time listening to him until then. I'm so glad I did. I love stories. I love hearing them, I love telling them, and while we traveled along the highway, a smile spread across my face and I could feel my ears trying to open wider as I listened. I loved the musicians that played in between each story, and I made up my mind to keep listening to the show as often as I could. Since then, I've discovered that you can download and listen to the show off schedule, and we've been listening to shows over the past couple of evenings since then.
One of the stories I heard was about two of his characters, Sam and Murphy, and how they were out in the countryside visiting Sam's grandmother and her husband. His grandmother is a dreamer, her husband (her second husband) a sturdy realist.
One evening, the boys are outside, lying on the grass, watching the stars, and they see what they are sure are UFO's, three of them, streaking across the sky. They run in to tell the adults what they saw. Margaret, Sam's grandmother, sees Smith, her husband, getting ready to tell them that they were nothing but shooting stars, but she stops him in his tracks with a look. Instead, she asks them to describe what they saw, and by the time they are heading up the stairs to bed, they are talking about to whom they should report their sighting. Later on:
"Why didn't you want me to tell them?" said Smith. Margaret was folding up her knitting.I saw my first shooting star while sitting out with our friends in Colorado. That might seem hard to believe for some people, but I grew up in the middle of a city in a place where the mosquitoes eat you alive if you're out in the evening. The opportunities to see such things were rare for me, and when I finally did see one, I was quietly amazed.
"What," she said, "that it was just a shooting star?"
"A meteor," said Smith, "not a star. Probably no bigger than a grain of salt." Margaret stared at him. "That's the truth!" said Smith.
"Smith," she said, "what sort of fun can a boy have with a grain of salt?"
"But those are the facts!" said Smith.
"Smith Gardner," said Margaret, "Life would be tedious if all we did was stick to the facts."
I spend a lot of time with a lot of scientifically-minded people. This is great because I am never without someone who can explain facts to me. My job entails relating these facts daily to people who want to learn them. Facts rule my day.
But my first love is a good story, and my second, great flights of fancy. And I despise those that feel the need to squash those moments when my dreams take off.
There's a time and place for the facts.
When we're looking at fairness, law, medical expertise, yeah, I want facts.
But when I am trying out ideas for decorating my house, knitting my projects, planning my vacations, thinking of the future, let me dream a bit, would you? I need to think big before I can finalize my plans with facts.
Because really: what sort of fun can I have with a grain of salt? Not much... unless I'm a french fry...