When my children were small, I would curl up in bed with them and read Frederick by Leo Lionni. It's a story about a family of field mice who is preparing for winter. Most of the mice are hard at work collecting food but Frederick spends his days staring at the sky and the meadow and he tells the other mice that he is gathering the warmth of the sun and the colors of the fields and words.
I'm sure the other mice thought Frederick was a lazy, self-involved, pretentious little rat.
My friends and I occasionally joke about the apocalypse.We talk about who we'd want in our bunker, who has skills that would be vital in rebuilding our lives and who might not make the cut.
Yeah, we know how to have a good time.
We talk about our friend who has a bow and has been practicing archery. She's in. We talk about Luisa's ability to organize and her strength and her ability to remain calm in a crisis. She's in. We talk about our friends who garden and can, who know how to slaughter animals, who know how to build. They are all in.
Then, there is me.
I often joke that I'll be left to wander the post-apocalytpic wasteland because I have no practical skills unless you count burning yourself with an iron and spilling lattes in your lap as life skills. I can cook but I'm accustomed to getting my food from the store. I can take care of my kids but I can't make them clothes and I definitely can't help them with algebraic story problems. I'm also really good at taking long, hot showers and pondering.
What do I really know how to do?
I can tell a good story. I can use words to entertain, to comfort, to calm. I can recreate the past and envision the future just by arranging and rearranging words in my head.
I am like Frederick, observing and collecting and waiting. Writers and storytellers take in the world and then give it back again.
At the end of the book, the mice have run out of food and they all turn to Frederick and ask, "And the words, Frederick?"
I may not be able to build a shelter for you but I can tell you a story about the time I hit myself in the head with a hammer that will make you laugh for days. I can make you remember and I can make you forget which just might come in handy when the squirrel killing and skinning starts. Don't worry - I'll accept canned goods as tips.