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Echoes: A Story About a Digital Story - by Stefani Sese


We are pleased to present posts by StoryCenter staff, storytellers, colleagues from partnering organizations, and thought leaders in Storywork and related fields.

Echoes: A Story About a Digital Story - by Stefani Sese

Emily Paulos

On my cell phone, I tell my friend about this digital story – Marie’s story – that keeps coming to mind.

My friend listens and then asks, “I wonder what the chakra color is for the pelvic area?”

A minute later I get a text. ORANGE.

And just like that, Marie’s story becomes my guide through my own process with cancer.

Marie shared her story in one of our public Washington, DC workshops in September of 2010. 

“…I let my doctors fight the disease. I grabbed on to healing, hope, and blue.”

Maybe it was the synchronicity. Blue was an unexpected gift from the woman in the bookstore where Marie was passing time, before a doctors appointment at John Hopkins. A chance encounter, a passing statement (“the color of the throat chakra is blue”), the gift of an agate. 

…The simple, yet profound, manifestation of hope.

Maybe it was the role of place (the BLUE Ridge Mountains), and music (local bluegrass at Cane Creek) – so intrinsic to her experience of joy and healing.

Maybe it was the incredible faith with which she embraced BLUE, in the face of a terrible diagnosis, in the face of radiation that would feel “as if a bomb has gone off in your mouth.”

And the fact that Marie had just come through it – here she was, in the story circle with us, alive, with a voice, and clear scans, sharing her experience.

Her story stayed with me.

Blue became Marie. Blue stared out at me every day from a postcard on my desk. I sent it to her.

A year and a half later, I find myself thinking of blue, thinking of Marie, and remembering her healing.   

Marie’s story is a gift, the gift of orange.

This color I have never given much attention to is a vibrant color, full of energy.

Orange has helped me to focus on healing instead of sickness, to focus on radiating health. Friends, family, and co-workers sent me pictures of orange sunsets, orange flowers, orange anything and everything! Pictures of themselves and their families dressed in orange. At night I imagined myself bathed in orange love, held in a soft cloud of healthy orange radiance.

I took orange healing energy into the hospital with me. The tumor was removed. The surgery was a success!

The first workshop I taught when I returned to CDS was in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We were training Duke University service-learning students to do digital storytelling with middle school girls as part of the Partnership for Appalachian Girls’ Education (PAGE). It was early June, the mountains were blue and beautiful, and when the workshop ended we spent a day at the Bluff Mountain Festival. The music from Marie’s story was everywhere. I needed to get in touch. I wrote to tell her a story about her digital story. 

It turns out Marie had returned to those very same mountains for the summer. She had just visited Cane Creek – for the first time since her own illness – and seen Ray (one of the musicians in her digital story). And now her story was echoing back to her again in another form, through mine.

That was June of last year. Since then there’s been a recurrence, another surgery, and now chemo treatments. The chemo is knocking the cancer back. I hope it knocks it clear out of my body!

Back in January, Marie sent a photo of a female cardinal with a “blazing orange beak.” The cardinal has made her nest in the holly bush outside the window of the guest bedroom (where I stayed when I visited last fall). She named her “Speranza” – Hope.

On this cold, blustery, wet snowy day, I think of that photo as I watch the birds at the birdfeeder. A female cardinal hops into view. She’s plump and healthy. The wind ruffles her patch of red head-feathers into a little red mohawk.

Her beautiful orange beak glows.

In gratitude for the gift of a story,