Happy Birthday, Cardboard Sign!

Two years ago today (April 15, 2013) I took my first step out the door as a story collector with a cardboard sign around my neck & an audio recorder in hand.

I still travel with the same cardboard sign, though it now says “tell me a story about water” on one side and “tell me a story about climate change” on the other.

The first version said “open call for stories” (and some people asked me if I was selling telephones, so I decided to be a bit more direct).


April 15, 2013: such a new & clean cardboard sign! Now the same sign is all full of life and wrinkles and I love it.

Here’s what I wrote on day one:

i just got back from spending all afternoon walking around somerville & downtown boston will a sign around my neck and a voice recorder (only turned on when people were comfortable with it). people have the most amazing stories to tell. i need to spend some time transcribing all this — i met homeless vietnam vets, a woman who lost everyone on her block to the earthquake in haiti and now works in a lady liberty costume holding parking signs near park street, a T employee who swears that his mother was dead for 48 hours and came back to life after he prayed that he could just have one more coffee with her, a woman who had very strong feelings about a dog, a twenty-something on his way to a bar who busted out a rap dedicated to me and my sign right there on the street with his friend backing him up with beatboxing, a v. inquisitive psychologist, a man whose best friend is a clown, a guy who was worried about his friend who was trying to choose between grad school in one city and a girlfriend in another, a woman who had written a poem that morning and pulled it out of her purse to read it to me, and a retired spanish teacher who swore that the statue of liberty was modeled after marie antoinette.

You know those tiny, beautiful moments where everything, for a moment, feels in line––vibrating with life & light? Where you feel you have found your thing? I brushed up against that the moment I stepped out of the door with my sign. Suddenly the world was new and full of stories, if only I had the courage to ask.

It’s been a wild and wonderful journey––me and my cardboard sign––in four countries, down countless rivers, and in and out of many human voices and ways of thinking.


August 2013: I cycled 800 miles down the Mississippi River Trail from Memphis, TN to Venice, LA to end up at the “End of the World,” all the while collecting stories from the wonderful people I met along the way.

There is nothing else I would rather be doing right now.


sun-drenched in San Francisco, October 2014

In subsequent outings I ditched the balloons and added a bicycle.


March 2015 in Greymouth, New Zealand


Whanganui, NZ: a town with a river


March 2014: just outside Picton, New Zealand

I can’t wait to see where the stories lead me next.


Dancing with the light after a day of collecting water & climate change stories in Los Angeles back in October 2014––my last sunset in the states for a good long while!

Thanks for being a part of this journey.




One thought on “Happy Birthday, Cardboard Sign!

  1. Happy Second Anniversary to the sign (and I presume, the trip too!). Two years would mean too many stories. Every person might seem to have a different story, I think. Happy journey! 🙂

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