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Putting The Images Together

If I ever needed proof that people are hard-wired to relate to storytelling, it came to me this past week.  It arose from the time-honored, modern American tradition of putting up Christmas lights.

Every year, I spend some time in designing the layout of our family lights.  Since we have some neighbors whose homes shine like veritable multi-colored beacons in the night, I had assumed that my planning centered on lighting up as much of the grounds as possible within a more meager budget.

After looking at this year’s result, I realized that wasn’t the case…at least not entirely.

Without consciously intending to do so, the displays I set up told a story.  Oh, not a collective one.  However, each section of the yard has its own theme.  I even included a more than passing nod to the Japanese practice of the viewer needing to be involved in order to see everything.  (If you do the typical slow drive-by in your car, you’ll miss about 15%...and that was intended!)

The figures and their placement became the elements of my story.  As I looked at the result, I realized that my mind was taking the various component parts and trying to arrange them into a format that “made sense”…that communicated something beyond “this is pretty.”

It hadn’t been my plan to have a North Pole theme in one section of the yard, but there it was…with a mother polar bear guarding her young cub amid snowflakes and the “northern lights.”

In a small circular grove of trees, Mickey Mouse (dressed as Santa Claus) is joined by Pluto as they decorate the area.

Eeyore is my nod to Japanese revelations.  Although a large inflatable, he is hidden from view by shrubbery and a sleigh-ride display…only popping into view as the sleigh whooshes by him (actually the viewer moving by) to show an unaccustomed smile at the passing Disney characters.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking.  I’m letting my imagination run away with me.  Perhaps I am.  After all, the imagination is integral to storytelling and uses emotions to tie the sequences together.

Still, when I looked at some of the displays in other yards, I could also see theme areas.  Entire sections appeared dedicated to more than just brightening the night.  They told mini-stories, whether it be of Toyland, the Nutcracker’s magical realm, or a transported Florida vacation (complete with lighted flamingoes and twinkling palm trees).

I’m still hoping that one of our neighbors will reinstate the lighting of their beautiful tree house.  It actually looks like an oversized doll-house.  One year, they put Christmas lights on it…and my fertile mind imagined that “someone was home” every time it came into view.

There are more obvious ones, of course.  At the company where I work, they have established the tradition of a Nativity display that has become a part of many holiday rituals for untold families.  Each scene in the walk-through display is a separate segment, but they come together to tell one of the most famous stories in the world.

Now, I’m not saying that all Christmas displays tell a story.  There was one yard decked out in a manner that seemed as if a tornado had randomly blown lighted items from various places to this one spot.  (Come to think of it, though, I’ve just created a story to explain how they got there!)

When I was returning home from my theory testing for this blog post, I passed by a home that still had two election yard signs prominently displayed next to the driveway.  Since the election is almost 3-weeks in the past as of this writing, my initial thought was this house had to contain some of the laziest people I could ever imagine.  After all, how much effort would it take to pull up one of the signs when you brought in the mail and the other when you collected the newspaper?

Then, the storyteller in me decided to come out to play.  What if there was a different reason for those still being there?  Maybe the signs were for friends of the family.  Both names had been victorious, so there might have been a certain pride…or even a “thank you” to those who had supported their candidates.  Maybe the family was on an extended world tour, and hadn’t come back to take down the signs.  Or could there be sickness in the house?

In less than a minute, I had an entire collection of possibilities.  All of them were stories to explain the two election signs still posted in the yard.  Truth be known, I took more satisfaction in my stories than I did in my initial judgment!

Stories are everywhere.  We relate to them naturally and, in their absence, we try to create them to fit what we see.  It is one of the main reasons that storytelling is such an effective tool in making presentations.

Thank you for reading.