One would be hard-pressed to find someone connected to the festival who has not heard Donald Davis. He is a stalwart, veteran teller and integral part of the festival. I distinctly remember listening to and loving his stories during my first years at the festival as a child and continuing to enjoy his storytelling throughout my life. Now that I am grown with a young family of my own I am excited to share his stories with my own children. He truly is the king of storytelling today and we are happy to share a bit more about him with you today.
- What is the first story you remember hearing and/or the first story you remember telling?
There were so many stories in the family in my childhood, I can’t figure out what was first. I think the first story I ever told was the family story about my Uncle Frank’s foxhound. It ran away from home and they found it two months in Baltimore, MD. It was in a used clothing store barking at an old fox-fur coat…but the story took thirty minutes to tell.
- How was the seed of storytelling planted in your life?
When we went visiting the relatives, there was no television or anything else to do, so, the adults visited and the children listened. I loved it! I didn’t know it was called “storytelling.”
- Where does storytelling grow from here? How do you want see storytelling influencing society?
I hope families will incorporate their own stories more fully into their family lives. When we know our stories, we know who we are, what we want to preserve, and where we want to go forward with our lives based on our own past.
- If you needed to start a dance party, what song would you lead with?
I would start a dance party with The Twist. It is joyful and so easy that no one needs to know anything at all to join. Just get up and twist!
For more on Donald’s schedule at this year’s Festival, visit: https://timpfest.org/events/28th-annual-timpanogos-storytelling-festival.
It was such a wonderful year for the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival and so it is no wonder that we are having a hard time officially saying goodbye. But, alas, all things must come to an end—and besides we have some fun things coming up in the next couple of months. As we make our final goodbye, we offer this look back in pictures at the 24th annual Timpanogos Storytelling Festival:
All photos were taken by two of our fantastic volunteers: Laren Helms and Tom Thurston.
A few days ago, I returned to Colorado with my family from another extraordinary experience at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. Twenty-four years of excellence is no small feat. Everyone who ever has been or is currently involved in the festival or mid-winter conference can be very proud.
I am a storyteller and teacher among many other things. Most of my life, my telling of personal anecdotes was limited to the dinner table or my classroom, usually to make a point. I never thought I’d have personal tales to tell because I simply didn’t live Donald’s life. Those kinds of things didn’t happen to me. I was satisfied listening to Donald, recognizing the people in his stories, the shared values or ideas we have in common and letting his memories trigger alternating laughter and tears in me, often in rapid succession.
Over the years, I had the privilege of working with Donald in various workshops and always came away the richer for it. I used many of the techniques I learned from him with great success in my classroom and in inservices I conducted for parents, teachers and students of all ages.
A few years ago, it dawned on me that my next logical professional move was to step out of my comfort zone and work on my own personal stories with Donald. What I learned serves me professionally, in storytelling, teaching and the students with whom I work; and also personally in my appreciation of family, friends, colleagues, and myself. The perspectives I gained around noticing details and deepening awareness of life events: gratitude, laughter, missteps, joys, tragedies, personalities, humor and how they are interrelated continue to make connections for me in profound ways. I listen, write and speak differently, especially with the people I love. Those scraps of moments in our lives create beautiful tapestries if we will but stand back and recognize them. Yes, there are significant stories in each of our lives. As my friends at Timpanogos say, the stories are “Yours, Mine and Ours.” We may or may not ever perform them in front of a storytelling audience like Donald does, but taking the time to craft them and tell them to our families and others; to learn to listen deeply, thereby honoring the stories others have to tell us can only create profound levels of understanding that will serve us all in time. Kathryn Tucker Wyndham once told me, “We must tell our stories.” She was talking about families, people in trouble, people sharing joy, different cultures, different generations and humanity itself. This is a path to that directive.
If I can encourage even one person to be involved in one of Donald Davis’ retreats, I know I will be perpetuating a rare gift in families and in classrooms everywhere because the word will necessarily spread. This work of sharing our stories is just too important, just too good to be quiet about. I heartily encourage anyone to do so. The retreat was mind-opening for me on many personal and professional levels.
Donald is not a sage on the stage kind of teacher. His style is much more Socratic. There is so much depth to be gained from listening to the stories shared, to Donald’s responses, to the questions he asks, to the questions and responses from other individuals in the group itself, and the experience of our own responses to all of the above.
My experience with the retreat was that the meat of the learning goes far beyond the incredible insights Donald shares with his words. Much of the learning opportunity lies in the marriage of Donald’s sensitive experience, knowledge and wisdom shared with the stories told, and the responses and insights from other individuals in the group. It’s a very thoughtful process that requires time and trust. It’s much more than a solitary learning moment. It is much more than a class. It truly is a retreat with all the nourishment that implies.
I wholeheartedly encourage anyone to attend Donald’s retreat. I promise you, you will learn and you won’t be disappointed.
The Donald Davis Retreat is just around the corner, next week to be exact. Have you bought your ticket yet? Yes, I’m talking to you, the one who has a secret desire to go to an inspiring five-day retreat to learn from a master storyteller, the one who has family stories to collect and pass along, the one who rarely spends money on yourself, but really doesn’t want to let this opportunity pass you by. Donald’s hands-on approach and feedback will help you unlock your memories, tap into their story possibilities, and shape them into works of art. So, if you want to breathe life into your stories and nurture your talent, then act on that secret desire you have to be part of this retreat and buy that ticket before it’s too late.
For more details visit the retreat event page or purchase your ticket directly through Timp Tickets.
If you are one of the lucky ones that has already been to his retreat in the past, tell us about your experience.
Donald Davis Retreat
If you have never heard Donald Davis tell his stories, then you’ve missed one of the great pleasures of life. His stories of deep curiosity and humor captivate audiences. They are not for children. Nor are they for adults. They are for everyone! No matter the age span in your family (or number of generations), Donald’s stories are an experience that brings recognition, smiles and laughter to all.
But they are more than entertaining. Donald’s stories satisfy. They fulfill our need to connect life’s experiences; to connect us to our own memories; to recognize our similarities with others and thereby connect us to our families, to our neighbors, and to our communities. He does this by using his stories as a mirror for us to explore and analyze our own lives. He does this by understanding how the brain works.
The brain has capabilities far beyond the one-track mode we usually operate in and I don’t need elaborate scientific studies to prove it. When listening to Donald’s stories I clearly see the antics of Donald convincing his little brother to try walking on the “hard shell” of cow pies; the trying-hard-to-keep-from-smiling face of his father as he assigns proper punishment to Donald for cutting his brother’s curly locks; his mother’s scream as a snake crawls across the dashboard of the car she’s driving, or her stance as she says for the millionth time, “That’s just what mothers do;” or Uncle Frank in his Sunday suit after he’s saved the proceedings of a funeral by removing a skunk from the open grave.
But simultaneously I am also seeing my brother and I as six- and seven-year-olds convincing a younger brother to walk under a peach tree with rotten fruit hiding in the tall grass beneath it; my brother not speaking to me all summer after I gave him what most would have thought was a great haircut (I’d been to college and didn’t know he had developed a sensitivity about showing the tops of his ears); my mother cleaning the shower and finding the missing-for-six-months garter snake a brother had brought home from scout camp, and words from my mother I had disliked hearing as a child pass through my lips to my own children; and me in my Sunday clothes running round and round an old Volkswagen van trying to shake a large, smelly, amorous goat until being saved by a neighbor, the goat’s loving owner. I am fully participating in both stories at the same time (Donald’s and mine) while creating a third story, that of the reality of me sitting with family and friends in a performance tent, listening to Donald, and the additional stories we generate as we share that experience.
Like his stories, Donald’s storytelling retreats are also about people. And, not surprisingly, it is people who make stories. As Donald puts it, “Stories are the trouble people have and then how they resolve that trouble through their own devices or through the help of others.” Folks just need a bit of help untangling the strands of life to find the beginnings and endings so they can share their stories with their families, their children, and their grandchildren. Then, after a story has been told and told again and you know just what has to be included for listeners to understand it, the story is ready to be written. What a fun way to share and bequeath personal and family history!
Grab the opportunity this summer and run, don’t walk, to Donald’s performances at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. Or, begin your family history by participating in one of his storytelling retreats. See you there!