Remember that childhood game when something was whispered successively around a big circle? By the time it reached the last person, the original quote was always vastly different than it had begun.
So it is with any small community. Stories get tweaked and distorted, sometimes peppered beyond recognition. Oh, sure, there are the inevitable curmudgeons who will give a negative twist to just about anything, but I am certain they are the exception. Most of us, I believe, bear not a shred of ill-intent when events are mistranslated. It is simply the nature of storytelling.
As when a musical note is transformed by passing through various instruments, so is a story transformed as it passes through various tellers.
I had my first (and hopefully only) experience with becoming spectacularly dehydrated during a long run last summer. A few weeks later, a seasonal neighbor pulled up next to me, rolled down his window and exclaimed, “I heard you had a heart attack!”
Thank God he was wrong.
Another neighbor saw me cutting past the duck pond the other day and wondered with much surprise what the heck I was doing there…..because she’d heard that I was currently walking across Europe.
I am SO awesome.
Oh wait. I’m not actually walking across Europe.
I have also heard that I grow all of my own food, which—at 9400’—smacks of superhero powers. I’ve never even attempted such a thing. I wildcraft osha root, dandelion leaves, rose hips, and various other medicinals, but that is a far cry from self-sufficiency.
What would it take to heat and bear-proof a greenhouse up here?
Years ago, right after we’d bought this property, we pulled in to celebrate our dream purchase, and instead found strangers sizing up the boundaries.
“We heard the buyers ran into financial trouble and that this place is up for sale again,” they told us.
We’d closed the transaction without the slightest hitch, so I have no idea how that one got started.
I will never sell this place and I’ll haunt my children if they ever sell it when I’m gone.
I did go to the Winter Olympics, but my race was a World Cup in conjunction with the Olympic Games. Thrilling, yes, but it was not an Olympic event. Yet the rumors still persist, so I am setting the record straight: I am not an Olympian. I did not even make the World Cup podium that year. In fact, it was one of the worst races I have ever run and I won’t waste ink with excuses.
Ah, but the gold medal gossip was fun while it lasted.
We are all subject to fodder whether it’s accurate or not.
I recently contributed to the rumor mill myself by mistakenly attributing an Argentinian dove-hunting trip to the wrong man. Fortunately, I caught my error a few sentences into the story, realizing that I had associated the non-hunter with the dove hunter because of their similar voices. Their tone and inflection are almost indistinguishable. My brain had simply used that detail and connected the information with the wrong person. I knew that scents could do that, but voices? Maybe it offers a clue as to how communication can go so wildly astray.
I’ve learned to keep my own counsel when digesting local hearsay. Even with all of our best intentions, I figure that probably half the stories we hear (and tell) are either missing a few elements or have a few pieces unwittingly added.
And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it means our neighbors uphold us with such generous hearts that they see us as being far more gifted than we see ourselves. Maybe it means that things are almost never as bad as some accounts would have us believe. Maybe it means that we care enough about each other to keep sharing what we’ve heard… or what we think we’ve heard… even when we lack precision.
For better or worse, our stories unite us… and I wouldn’t have it any other way.