I have known most of these people for years, and I still feel like a fan that has just crashed a VIP party.
On top of all the unforgettable stories, all the amazing moments, all the meetings and the conversations and the laughter, my favorite part of Jonesborough is still the after-festival party. When everyone has gone home and the tents are empty, the storytellers gather in a house on the hill for a last evening out of time before we have to return to reality.
Storytellers are wonderful people. And a lot of fun. Winding down after three days of non-stop performance work, that would be excuse enough to pull a Sleeping Beauty and not wake up for a week, they sit around the house sipping wine or beer, eating delicious food, and talking about... stuff. Contrary to popular belief, storytellers don't talk about stories all the time. Surprise! What we do talk about is everything else, and mostly, life in general. We talk about our journeys, our experiences, our families and friends and past moments and future plans. We talk about kings and cabbages and pets, and places we want to go. I mingle with a passion, walking from one group to another, picking up conversations that started this same time last year, and starting new ones that will last till the next spring. In the meantime, tellers gather on the porch, despite the chilly evening, and suddenly there is music everywhere, and whoever is not playing an instrument is stomping, clapping, snapping, or outright dancing on any clear flat surface. It feels like family.
Every time I have the privilege of spending an evening with a group of storytellers I rediscover why I would not do anything else in the world rather than tell stories for a living. You don't get this sense of community in any other art form. It lights up the map with small colorful dots, and every dot means a person that you know, a person who shared stories, and music, and wine with you, and when you see each other on the road, they will do it again. You learn more from these meetings than any amount of lecture or research.
Once again, it was quite the crazy blur of an evening, much like last year, much like anywhere else in the world where I have been. I was glad that I got to talk to people I have seen on the stage over the weekend, just to thank them for their stories and tell them they were amazing. Storytellers need to hear that as much as any other artist. Plus, secretly, I was very proud to be in their company.
Then, the next morning you wake up and you are back in the real world, with storytellers traveling the roads in all the directions of the wind. The Festival is over, for now. We'll see each other on the road.