Becky Shields

By: Salem Indie

Ex Fabula’s first StorySlam of 2023, “Nature,” quickly turned into a full house that required extra chairs at the Sprecher Brewery in Glendale, WI. This night’s theme focused on stories pertaining to the natural world. Nine individuals told stories, with 5 being brand new to the stage that evening!

Up to the stage was the first newbie of the night, Becky Shields. In Becky’s eyes, as she sees it, our Creator made each one of us- every blade of grass and every flower pedal uniquely individual to each other. Through her years of running an organic farm with her husband and teaching others how to craft medications of herbs, her appreciation lies within the often over-looked aspects of nature and individuality.

Carol Hale

The reigning champion of the night and not-so-newbie storyteller, Carol Hale, started innocently enough on a summer evening in June, sharing magic mushrooms with friends in her driveway. As she often took bike rides to the local cemetery, she did so again, but tonight was the ride of E.T., as she called it, that wouldn’t be forgotten. As Carol lay in the cemetery with the mushrooms in full effect, with a ritually-blessed amulet around the neck, cop lights were spotted in the distance. Paranoia had set in and she was quickly on her way back home, the pale moonlight trailing behind. Unbeknownst to Carol at the time, cops had been called to the area for suspected necrophiliac behavior by local young men, (at which point she had the audience rolling in laughter).

The following two storytellers, both newbies, Molly Keaveny and Meg Summerside told personal stories of unusual and intimate happenings within the natural world. Molly told of her experimentation with interspecies relationships in nature; one of her partners being a local sugar maple tree. The relationship encourages Molly to listen closely and memorize the intricate talkings and behaviors of the tree, an act we often are too busy for in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Megan’s, on the other hand, happened in a vulnerable adventure out into the dusk of the Colorado wilderness. While Megan playfully begged her coworker to take a wild dive into a nearby basin, before their home base was fully secured for the night, a Cheshire Cat-like pair of eyes began stalking their every movement around the edge of the water. Though they were luckily safe, that seemingly close call encouraged better preparedness next time around!

Colin O’Brien

With Colin O’Brien’s story, the audience moved further west into the California Red Wood Forest. Colin, his wife, and kids traveled to this sort of magical land to appreciate the unprecedented beauty that can’t be found anywhere else in the United States; unbeknownst to him, between the chaos of fussy child and spousal arguments, storms in the area were looming. As he wandered into the distance without his family to have some alone time, within minutes, a gargantuan redwood tree came crashing down to earth, scaring the living daylights out of him and allowing a quick mediation within the family. There were no more tears or arguments as the family made their way to the Ranger’s station!

Tony Anderson’s tumultuous story of a Minnesota Boundary Waters canoe trip started off seemingly innocent with his brother and a friend that seemed not always to make the most intellectually-sound choices. Before long, Tony was being dragged by his brother down a 5-foot waterfall in a 15-foot canoe, shooting their gear everywhere and themselves waist-deep in thick swamp muck. Tony’s brother garnered himself a leech as a hitchhiker, what Tony considered a fair punishment for his brother’s blasé attitude toward Mother Nature’s strength.

Jo Nevin’s story was a lighthearted reflection on their travels to San Francisco and its flourishing Queer scene. Being that Jo loves speaking with strangers, they were quick to make new, strange friends that shared laughs, stories, and Marijuana. Jo felt a sense of life, desire, and acceptance in nature.

Julia Oschwald Tilton and Sarah Beth Nelson closed the show with stories of wonder and mystery found out in the abyss that we call nature. Julia spoke of the time she made the long trip to Lima, Peru, intending to set out on an unprecedented trip through the winding hills and mountains of that region, direly underprepared without basic necessities. Before leaving, the only word of advice received was to ask for the mystical woman named “Gloria.” When Julia found she may give out from exhaustion, before long, she found herself in Gloria’s home after meeting the woman at a bridge. Julia was being taken care of in a remote hostel, far from the beaten path, where her Spanish was shaky at best. When she found she could not bear to move the following morning, a donkey (for a fair price) was conveniently offered to her. If you yourself are lucky enough, you’ll always find a donkey on your own travels, says Julia!

Storyteller in white button up and planets tie points to stage while telling story
Tony Andersen
Storyteller with purple hair speaks into microphone with Ex Fabula banner to the side
Jo Nevin

Sarah Beth closed the Slam by reflecting tenderly on the summers spent up on the shores of Long Island, New York with her cousins and grandparents. Frequently, as kids, they’d happen upon these seemingly lifeless, translucent jellies that served absolutely no purpose- by the kids’ own account. Often times they found themselves racing these clear beings down the railing of the stairs in the hot summer sun, only for them to evaporate into thin air. One final night of the trip, Sarah found herself out at sea, late at night, where almost nothing was discernable. That was, until she noticed a heavenly field of sparkling pastel glimmers lighting the ocean water; the seemingly-lifeless jellies now served an even more beautiful purpose than her young mind could comprehend!

Whether it was a story about the comforts and beauties of nature, or the shock and scare that can often be felt in its all-powerful strength, the tales told tonight remind and encourage us to more closely listen and stop to smell the roses on our ever-changing planet. Thank you to everyone who joined us and we hope to see you in February for our next StorySlam, “Exes”!

Photos By: Art Montes