Storyteller (part 2)

Guru. Orchha, originally uploaded by entrelec

I titled the last post "Storyteller" but somehow it ended up being about rules and systems. I forgot to write anything about, you know, telling stories. This is the second thing that I enjoyed about my D&D experience.

Essentially, role-playing is interactive storytelling. This is great, because I tried writing novels and short fiction for a while, and I was not very good at it. I could do an awesome outline with plenty of interesting hooks and ideas; that came easily. Writing believable characters, dialogue, and action? Not so much.

With a role-playing game, I can just do the parts I'm good at. I set the stage and my players provide the action that moves the plot forward. We all get to share in creating a story together.


Grandfather's Watch, originally uploaded by Treefiddy

Previously I wrote about how I always read the instructions. This is not due to a lack of faith in myself or some misplaced sense of duty. Basically, I just enjoy figuring out how systems work.

Learning the rules of a new game is part of the fun for me. In fact, it's sufficient entertainment to derive the essence of gameplay from a manual, even if I never actually play the game. From when I was a young kid I loved to invent new games for the sheer joy of creation. Back then I used to play them at least once, but now I'm content to establish the possibility -- to build a universe that doesn't fall apart two days later -- and move on to the next challenge.

So it was great fun to play my first game of Dungeons & Dragons last week, with me as the Dungeon Master. (A sports analogy for the uninitiated: if you're playing a game, he's like the referee, the other players, and the field they're on, all at once.) I create and sustain the world, and other people play in it. Everyone's a winner!


Raspberry Seltzer, originally uploaded by Garrett and Rachel

We had a great harvest of raspberries, possibly more than we've ever grown before. This is partly because I learned last year that berries only grow on the last year's stalks. So I didn't decimate them last winter like I did the year before. Our sweet peas seemed to be done for the year, but they have been loving the colder weather this week, and new pods are popping off the vines.

Our house was getting lots of interest and showings, but no offers after a few weeks. It's still early, but we have a better chance of selling quickly than letting it sit on the market for months. We dropped the price and hopefully that's going to do the trick.

Two people have come through so far this weekend, plus one more today. We spent all morning cleaning inside, working in the yard, and picking up trash after the parade. When we returned after yesterday's afternoon showings, police had several young men lined up against a fence, across the street from our house. There's only so much you can do.


Cartuxa, originally uploaded by Miguel Manso

"What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous."

- Thomas Merton


Harajuku snapshot, originally uploaded by manganite

When I was younger, and I suppose this is common adolescent behavior, I spent lots of time evaluating a list of labels to define "who I was."  I defined myself by what I did, or how I dressed, or who I hung out with.  It was an easy way to pick a pre-defined identity without bothering to develop a unique personality.  Bicyclist, hippie, punk, Christian, hipster, father.  Just slap on a label, and you're done.

The problem with labels is that they didn't make me a more complete person once they were applied.  To the contrary, they limited my freedom by restricting my own definition of who I was.  Gradually I'm realizing that I didn't need labels to define myself.  In fact I don't need to define myself at all.

I can just be what I am, and that is enough.


I like alcohol, it is my vice. Occasionally I take some time off from drinking, a mini-Lent, and let my body detox. Not that I party hard these days--in a wild night I might have three or four drinks--but it's an exercise in mindfulness.

So I have been thinking about the topic of purification this week. In a splendid display of serendipity, Boing Boing tackled the topic of Personal Transformations in the Internet Age yesterday. We humans have a need to reinvent ourselves. But it's difficult to create a new identity when the shed skins from our past lives are littered around the Internet for all to see.

I think a lot (probably too much) about my online identity. What should I link where, how candid should I be, who will read this and what will they think of me? Is it ironic that I am most sincere on a (semi-)anonymous blog, that I only feel free to be totally myself in a place where nobody knows who I am?


Yoga, originally uploaded by Barbara Jambwisch

I mixed a few advanced yoga moves in with my usual "beginner's" practice this morning. Some new muscles got a workout. My back hurt so good, and the soreness worked itself out while I went about my daily business. That's the perfect amount of hurt.

My family is trying to get more active. Some nights we strap the baby into the stroller and walk around the neighborhood, other nights we sit on our butts. I would prefer if there was a higher strolling-to-loafing ratio. Right now we skew towards sedentary.

I would like to do some strength training except that workouts are so boring. Visiting my parents is great because I usually do some physical labor while we are there. I hate push-ups, but I'll gladly chop down trees, dig up roots, and haul branches. I need to get my own place in the country. Or a side hustle as a lumberjack.


akorn-AWX0207-2298, originally uploaded by Andrew Kornylak

Ashley likes to play around the bottom of the basement staircase. We bought a used gate on Craigslist to keep her away, and we haven't yet replaced it after it fell apart. (The gate at the top is new and solid, so there's no fear of her tumbling down).

She has worked on surmounting the first steps for several weeks. Yesterday she decided to try for the summit. She used to crawl up one or two steps and then fall backward, or slide back down on her belly. Last night she was determined to keep on going.

With my wife behind her ready to catch, and me calling encouragement from the top, she took one stair after another until she ascended the entire staircase by herself. I was proud and terrified. Time to replace that gate.